Spanish rail administrator ADIF has launched a trial of LiFi technology at Málaga María Zambrano station. The move is part of the infrastructure manager’s “Digital Stations” investment programme. Last year, ADIF separately also awarded contracts to telecoms companies to provide WiFi at Córdoba and Sevilla Santa Justa.
LiFi is a bi-directional, wireless communications system which transmits large amounts of data using LEDs or infra-red light. Proponents of LiFi argue that it only requires a light equipped with a chip and that data transmission is typically both fast and secure. Many argue that the technology is complementary to emerging 5G telecom systems.
According to ADIF it will use the new LiFi installation to give a fully operational assessment of the technology and how it may succeed in a real-life working station. It is also seeking feedback from passengers and staff to ensure that the access interface is user-friendly, and that the right level of connectivity can be guaranteed.
Meanwhile in the UK, Waterloo and Paddington are this month due to become the latest in a succession of Network Rail-owned stations to offer passengers free and unlimited WiFi. The rail administrator is currently rolling out free WiFi at the 20 major stations that it operates across the UK. In partnership with Telent and GlobalReach Technology NR said it is offering seamless connectivity and single sign-on at most of its stations. The service is reportedly “child-friendly” and can also be used on more than one device.
The move apparently followed research which showed that train passengers prize free access to toilets and WiFi (not simultaneously) above all other station amenities. Therefore, with toilets now free at all major NR termini, it follows that free station-wide WiFi should be next for the 900 million passengers that travel through them every year.
The value of the contract with Telent has not been disclosed. However, the supplier said it will ensure that the WiFi networks will be “Future-proof, with a view to providing longer term benefits and commercial opportunities for Network Rail going forward.”
In 2020 Transport for Wales (TfW) announced the details of a £194 million investment plan to improve all of its 247 railway stations across Wales. The “station improvement vision” will deliver free WiFi to most stations as well as new or refurbished shelters at all stations by 2022, better cycle storage and monitored CCTV at all stations by 2023, and improved passenger information.
In late 2020, Deutsche Bahn announced plans to make free WiFi available at over 100 stations across Germany. In addition, the system has been designed to ensure that connections are seamlessly maintained as passengers board or depart from trains.
The station WiFi scheme means that passengers will no longer be forced to used paid-for services at major hubs including Berlin, Cologne, Munich and Hamburg as well as smaller stations like Trier, Straubing and Sylt.
On-train WiFi services, trackside networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi and on-board entertainment will be the main subjects of BWCS’ WiFi on Trains Conference in November of this year. For information on speaking and exhibiting and the one remaining sponsorship spot at the 2021 event, please contact Ross.Parsons@BWCS.com