News from BWCS

Latest Public Transport WiFi Usage Figures Track Industry’s COVID-19 Recovery

Mon 20 Jul 2020

Swedish/UK on-board WiFi supplier, Icomera, has released its latest Passenger WiFi usage figures from over 30,000 trains, trams, buses, and coaches across Europe and North America. Intriguingly, the latest data-set also tracks public transport’s rate of recovery as COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

Naturally, Icomera’s results show that all regions saw a dramatic drop-off in weekly Passenger WiFi usage through March – compared to levels in the same period the year before. While all regions have clearly felt the impact, the session-volume data illustrates that some areas fell further than others, and the subsequent recovery rates also vary.

According to the supplier, Eastern and Western Europe are showing the strongest recovery. Passenger WiFi usage in these regions has currently made a +46 per-centage point (p.pts) recovery from its lowest point (13%), to now sit at 59% of 2019 levels.

Northern Europe (excluding the UK and Republic of Ireland) is up 28 p.pts to 42%, demonstrating a gradual recovery from a comparatively less impacted position.

Southern Europe is emerging from the after-effects of the toughest lockdowns and currently showing the second fastest recovery rate, up 30 p.pts to 32%, following the widespread lifting of restrictions across the region in early – mid June.

North America is up 14 p.pts from its low point to 20% but has experienced a -6% p.pts setback in the last week. Notably, Passenger WiFi usage in the region has not bounced back from its annual Independence Day dip as quickly as it has in previous years.

In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, government advice, up to now, has been to avoid public transport unless absolutely necessary. These regions are still experiencing the slowest returns, up 12 p.pts to 19% of 2019 levels. However, the 2 p.pts recovery seen in the past week, following a significant easing of restrictions in the UK on July 4th, is the largest weekly improvement these regions have seen to-date.

A Shift in Passenger Travel Habits?

Icomera is now also reporting on the distribution of WiFi sessions by day of the week, and by time of day. The latest data is taken from Week 28 in 2020 and compared with the same week in July 2019.

BWCS, along with many in the transport industry have long argued that adding WiFi to trains and buses can help ease rush-hour congestion by persuading hard-pressed commuters that it is possible to work on the train or bus and thereby defer their journey in and arrive later at the office or travel home earlier.

Icomera reports that looking at the distribution of WiFi sessions by hour of day for Monday to Friday in all regions, the obvious pre-COVID morning and late-afternoon peak hours have been replaced with quieter mornings and a more gradual ramp-up to mid – late afternoon peaks. The supplier argues that this is particularly noticeable in North America, Southern Europe, the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Icomera argues that its figures highlight the value of fast access to operational data from onboard systems in the industry’s mission to protect passengers, control the spread of the virus, and shift society’s travel habits back towards sustainable, green mobility.

More information and a collection of useful graphs are available here …

The 2020 BWCS TrainComms Conference, which will cover trackside networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi and on-board entertainment, will now take place on the 27th and 28th of October and will be at least partially online – for more information on how to participate in this event , please contact .

The 2020 conference ( ) is sponsored by Icomera, Nomad Digital, Fluidmesh, RADWIN and Xentrans.