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Until now, connecting to wireless broadband on trains in the UK has been a somewhat haphazard affair, with connections liable to be slow and frequently dropped.
Chiltern Railways and EE claimed their network would put an end to buffering, non-loading web pages and unsent emails by using a trackside wireless network that connects into EE’s 4G mobile broadband network.
With a number of lengthy tunnels along its main route through the Chilterns, the operator said it would also put an end to “can you hear me, I’m going into a tunnel?” conversations by enabling voice-over-Wi-Fi (VoWIFI) capabilities, already a standard service for iPhone and some Android users on EE’s network.
Chiltern Railways is one of the UK’s smaller rail operators, operating commuter routes out of London’s Marylebone Station to Birmingham and Aylesbury. It is using the network as a test bed on behalf of its parent Arriva – part of German state rail operator Deutsche Bahn – ahead of a possible roll-out on Arriva’s other UK franchises, such as Northern Rail.
“We were one of the first train companies to introduce free Wi-Fi around five years ago on our London to Birmingham trains. Since then we’ve invested in 4G capability, however due to black spots on the line the service was limited in places,” said Chiltern Railways commercial director, Thomas Ableman.
“It was always our vision to deliver truly connected mobility and now, thanks to our partnership with EE, Chiltern will have the fastest and most reliable Wi-Fi in the country. We’ve just made it far easier to do business on the move.”
EE’s CEO, Marc Allera, said: “Our ambition is to connect people wherever they are. Trains – metal carriages that move at high speed – present unique challenges, and our network engineers are innovating to make sure that commuters can always connect.”
Chiltern Railways has upgraded its onboard technology to support a full launch, which is set for the end of 2016.