Virgin Trains to get Wi-Fi

On track for 2007

Virgin Trains has teamed up with Nomad Digital to provide Wi-Fi connectivity to passengers.

The system, to be deployed across Virgin's network next year, will consist of a relay every few miles, allowing the train to connect to the net.

The limiting factor for speed of connection will be the wired portion of the link, from the relay to the rest of the internet, which will operate over ADSL or similar. There seems little point having a 49Mb/sec connection to a 2Mb/sec ADSL line, but the speed should be more than adequate for most usage, at least until the teens with their Nintendo DSs start eating into the bandwidth.

While based on 802.16, the technology being deployed by Nomad is actually pre-WiMAX, and operates in the unlicensed 5.8GHz spectrum. Keeping the power down to remain unlicensed means more relay stations, but a lot less paperwork. Nomad is particularly pleased with its handover technology, which it says can pass connections from relay to relay without dropping a packet.

Pricing wasn't available from Virgin, but on the Brighton Express, which runs the same technology, connectivity is branded T-Mobile and priced the same as their other hotspots, so we can only hope for something similar from Virgin. ®

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