Virgin to trial combined wireless system on trains - Embedded.com

Virgin to trial combined wireless system on trains

LONDON — A trial of QinetiQ Rail's Connected Carriage wireless internet system is set to commence with Virgin Trains following its installation on a Pendolino train.

The Connected Carriage system combines multiple Wide Area Network (WAN) technologies including bi-directional satellite and WiMAX. The specification delivered to Virgin Trains combines WiMAX, satellite, Wi-Fi and cellular which can provide national coverage to a moving train with a continuous high-speed connection at up to 49Mbytes per second.

“This is the first time anyone has actually established a train-to-shore link which combines all these technologies on a train at speeds in excess of 200kph. By combining multiple WAN technologies including bi-directional satellite and WiMAX, QinetiQ Rail has achieved a number of impressive technical firsts, including the first U.K. installation of a bi-directional satellite communications system on a fully operational train,” said Magnus McEwen-King, CEO of QinetiQ Rail.

The trial is taking place on the West Coast Mainline, one of two long distance rail franchises operated by Virgin Trains in the U.K. With over 15 million people travelling on the west coast route each year, it is one of the most heavily-used mainlines in Europe.

Virgin Trains has issued an Invitation to Tender with a view to introducing a wireless Internet service on all its 131 Pendolino and Voyager/Super Voyager trains. The Connected Carriage system can provide rail passengers with public Internet access, email, media content and customer information services.

The Connected Carriage system comprises on-train components, train-to-shore links and back-office systems hosted in QinetiQ Rail's Network Operations Centre. The system also incorporates QinetiQ Rail's wireless security system enabling integration with existing onboard systems.

QinetiQ Rail has installed Wi-Fi hotspots in each carriage of the Pendolino train to provide Wi-Fi coverage at every seat. These are supported by a LAN along the entire length of the train which has the potential to be used for on-board communications, video surveillance and train monitoring. An on-board server caches web content and outgoing emails, and is capable of storing rich media content (such as audio channels, music clips and games for download) for immediate access by passengers.

Several external antenna have been installed on the roof of the train which use WiMAX, satellite, Wi-Fi and cellular technology to maintain a continuous high-speed connection between the train and the Internet. QinetiQ Rail uses a smart router to continuously monitor the performance of the various train-to-shore links. The router decides second-by-second which combination of WiMAX, satellite, Wi-Fi and cellular to use to deliver the best possible experience for the end-user.

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