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Will Free WiFi Be Offered On Every Train?

A few years ago, envisioning Wireless on Board Train Networking in India would mean track side fiber connected access points with on-board high-speed WiFi AP clients. The reason behind this was that the only way to get enough moving bandwidth was WiFi, because cellular data then was not only expensive, but also has much narrower bandwidth than today’s 4G/LTE services. But today, these 4G/LTE services have changed the scenario. There is a lot more cellular coverage, although not complete coverage. This being the reason, mobile service operators are looking to develop and improve their own cellular networks and their coverage along with the nation’s rail networks. With the hope of high bandwidth cellular coverage to encounter continuous improvement, in-vehicle cellular WiFi routers would appear to be the best mid to long term investment for train operators to consider.

Will Free WiFi Be Offered On Every Train?

Now, to bring in easy Wireless on Board Train Networking in India, there is a lot to consider. With train coaches seating more than 70 passengers, you can imagine the high amount of potential service users! And, this high user density comes with the fact of at least a single device per passenger, and also multiple devices in certain cases, when travelers use smartphones, tablets, and laptops at the same time. if a service level targets an allowance of 1-2 Mbps per device, trains would require up to 1 Gbps of cellular data! Moreover, trains being steel tubes, the positioning and location of both internal WiFi and external cellular antennas will be very important. Last but not the least, all of this will require approvals and certifications for every aspect.

An average of 20% of passengers on a train use or wish to use free WiFi services, and this number is only going to rise in the future. This means that if a train has 400 passengers, there will be 80 active users. If the target is 2 Mbps per user, 160 Mbps of bandwidth is required. And, if an average single LTE connection can provide 10 Mbps, 16 cellular modems will be required. With so much to consider, how can customer expectations be managed, along with individual customer bandwidth allocation throughout their journey?

Web caching comes in handle here, whenever possible, since most users will generally visit the same social media and news sites, which can be easily cached to reduce the amount of public internet bandwidth consumed, and speed up page load times through local deliver of regularly accessed content. Additionally, there are more chances of loss of connectivity in train journeys, which also needs to be considered. To solve this, passengers could be made aware of the connectivity status and bandwidth availability to change usage habits. For example, a display screen on the bulkhead could show how many clients are connected, how much bandwidth is available, and the current connectivity status – all live and real-time data.

However, with all of this being maintained, cellular data costs are definitely going to hurt. Any operator will find it difficult to absorb the monthly cellular data charges for bandwidth. Thus, new revenue streams will be required to compensate. These could likely be media companies and content producers.

Well, let us see how things work out, and it is really going to be excited if we all get free WiFi on our train journeys, won't it!?