Cuba is set to be the latest country to launch WiFi on its trains. According to local news reports, state-owned Soluciones Integrales de Telecomunicaciones S.A. (Solintel) has embarked on a project to install Internet access for passengers traveling on trains as part of the process of “informatization of society.”
These days, the World Bank estimates that around 70% of Cubans have access to the Internet. However, it is neither free nor fast – rather like the trains.
Solintel’s president, Robelis Lambert Matos, explained that the project represents an “added value for the railroad, which will allow a new level of comfort.” Matos did not specify which of the services operated by the Cuban Railway Union would benefit, nor if it would come at an extra cost for travellers. Most Cubans gain access to the ‘Net via a paid-for “Nauta” card.
Cuba’s state media has remained silent on the projected cost of adding WiFi to the trains. Solintel is said to be conducting a study of the current state of mobile coverage of the lines and how many “silence zones” there are, where no connections are available.
Despite recent injections of aid from Russia and China, the island’s rail system, which stretches 4,556km, is still in need of major modernisation. A 2019 deal made with Russian Railways to pour some US$2.34 billion into upgrading the rolling stock and tracks was later cancelled after the Cuban government apparently reneged on some repayments.
In October 2022, Beijing Fangian Technology Co. signed a letter of intent to invest in rebuilding and restoring Cuba’s ageing fleet of locomotives and passenger cars. In addition, the Chinese state company said it would import much-needed rail equipment.
So far, this has made little impact on the creaking train transport system. Local reports state that trains are restricted to travelling at a maximum speed of 70km an hour. This means that a trip from Havana to Guantanamo — on a good day — can take up to 21 hours – plenty of time to access the WiFi.
Solintel says that passengers will soon be able to send and receive e-mail messages with attachments as well as gain access to corporate intranets, browse the web and chat online. The company has also made some guarded promises to work on removing not-spots along the line, which may sound familiar to European travellers…
The growing market for passenger WiFi and on-board entertainment and trackside wireless systems will be the main subjects of BWCS’ WiFi on Trains Conference this year www.Traincomms.com on the 14th and 15th of November.
For information on the full programme and the one remaining sponsorship spot at the 2023 event, please contact Ross.Parsons@BWCS.com
The 2023 Conference is sponsored by Huber+Suhner, GlobalReach Technology, Westermo and Icomera.
Xentrans, Antonics and PoloMarconi are exhibiting sponsors.
The Full Programme for 2023 will be available in the next few weeks at the website, where you can also sign up for our Free WiFi on Trains News Service (www.Traincomms.com ).
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