News from BWCS

More Mobile Operators Move to Cover the Tracks

Thu 3 Jun 2021

Rail Administrators around Europe are beginning to win the battle to ensure greater mobile connectivity alongside train tracks. Or, at least, they are certainly taking the struggle more seriously.

In the UK, Network Rail recently announced that it is looking for a £1 billion telecoms partner to help invest in trackside cables and masts. Meanwhile, Denmark and Norway have long developed plans to entice telecom companies to ensure better wireless connectivity on trains (both are projects that BWCS assisted with).

Finland now looks set to follow the example of its Nordic neighbours. The Department for Transport and Communications in Helsinki recently convened a meeting of transport and mobile companies to address the problems. The Department says it will produce a joint development plan by the end of this year.

Ahead of the pack, however, has been Germany, where the Federal Government has long demanded that the country’s mobile companies greatly increase their coverage of the nation’s rail network.

This week, according to Mobile Europe Magazine, two of the big three German mobile operators have been doing their bit to edge the nation’s rail system towards meeting better connectivity targets. Vodafone has announced the installation of reliable cellular communications in the 6.5km tunnel that runs between Frankfurt main train station and Offenbach. The project will help boost connections for the long-suffering WiFi users on the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV) trains in that part of Germany.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Telekom has been expanding coverage on the train lines between Frankfurt Airport and Gateway Gardens via the City’s stadium all the way into the central terminus.

RMV passengers can access free WiFi on ten regional train lines and the company’s X-Bus network. In future, WiFi provision will be part of the standard for tenders for new transport services in the RMV regional train service. The transport group also provides WiFi access via around 650 ticket machines. In total RMV says it records over 5 million passenger log-ins per month, amounting to about 60TB of data. This, it claims, makes it one of the largest WiFi service providers in Germany.

Commenting on the Tunnel coverage now offered by Vodafone, Christian Roth, CEO of the S-Bahn Rhein Main, commented, “We are all the more pleased that the transmission quality is now right. I would especially like to thank Vodafone – to get this conversion done in many small stages at night without closing the tunnel was a feat.”

Vodafone reported that it installed a total of 12km of fibre cable to connect up the in-tunnel amplifier points, plus a further 3km of antenna cable was needed for more than 100 antenna systems and repeater locations that it installed.

For its part, national train operator Deutsche Bahn is widely viewed as the highest spending European train operator when it comes to passenger WiFi services. Having invested over €200 million on expanding its technical WiFi infrastructure at stations, on trains and buses in recent years, it plans to pour another €44 million into growing the service even further over the coming months.

The full programme for this year’s WiFi on Trains Conference – Traincomms 2021 – is now ready – .