India’s Central Railway Division has started work on equipping its huge fleet of commuter trains with on-board WiFi services. The operator, one of 18 railway divisions across the sub-continent, said it is “well on the way” to adding passenger WiFi to the 165 trains which run in and around the Mumbai area.
Within two months all coaches should be fitted out with the necessary routers to supply on-train Internet connectivity. It is understood that all connections will be made for free and that the contract signed by Central Railways will last for five years.
One of the main features of the new service is an app that allows passengers to download a selection of pre-loaded TV, film and music content to their devices. The train operator plans to generate revenue via pre-sold advertising spots in the downloaded content.
Commuters using the app will have an option to choose their preferred language and watch the pre-loaded movies or videos on their smartphones. According to Central Railways, the infotainment service is being launched to increase the non-fare revenue of Indian Railways. The Railway Board recently issued directives to all the 18 zones of Indian Railways to increase their revenue.
In November 2020 it was announced that Central Railway will operate additional 314 suburban services bringing the total to 1020 daily services running across the city of 20 million inhabitants.
Last year, India’s national rail operator received a significant boost in the government’s 2020-2021 Railway Budget. The country’s Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, said that her administration will introduce as many as 150 public-private train services within four years.
Ms Sitharaman also revealed that the Rail Operator will receive funding to begin building a huge network of solar panels to run alongside its tracks. This, she underlined, will provide cheaper electricity to Indian Railways and help it to become a net-zero carbon producer by 2030.
Indian Railways has already installed fast WiFi connectivity at 5,500 train stations across the sub-continent.
The government has also indicated that it is keen to invite private operators to run trains on the Indian Railways network. In the coming years more Tejas Express-style trains will be put into service on key tourism routes. These trains were some of the first to offer WiFi in india. Overall, the government believes as many as 150 private trains could be up and running within four years.
Indian Railways subsidiary, RailTel, has previously announced ambitious plans to leapfrog GSM-R train connectivity technology and opt instead for the more advanced trackside communications solution, LTE-R. The company said it plans to introduce trackside LTE-R in four separate phases of construction, covering a total of 64,000km of track. Eventually, the LTE-R network will provide high-speed, on-board internet connectivity right across the vast, sprawling Indian Railways network.
On-train WiFi services, trackside networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi and on-board entertainment will be the main subjects of BWCS’s WiFi on Trains Conference in November of this year. For information on speaking and sponsorship opportunities at the 2021 event, please contact Ross.Parsons@BWCS.com .
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The 2021 conference (www.Traincomms.com ) is sponsored by Icomera, Nomad Digital and Xentrans.