Amtrak has set the stage for further expansion of its popular on board free Wi-Fi service in 2011 (press releases), following its well-received introduction on the Acela Express route, between Boston and Washington D.C., and last month’s addition on Amtrak Cascades trains in the Pacific Northwest.
Nomad already provides the systems and network operations for Acela Express and Amtrak Cascades. The new services will be deployed using Nomad’s cutting-edge technology, which is capable of aggregating multiple wide-area networks including 3G cellular and 4G (e.g. LTE, WiMAX) technologies into a single train-to-shore link to maximize the available bandwidth.
The Capitol Corridor, which connects Sacramento to the Bay Area, will get free WiFi in every car on every train, later this year.
AmtrakConnect service is planned on Northeast Corridor services and on more West Coast trains by the end of this year. Wi-Fi equipment installations will soon begin on more than 450 Amfleet railcars.
“Nomad provides Internet links to trains around the world. This Amtrak contract ensures that trains in the USA will be among the best connected anywhere,” said Nigel Wallbridge, Nomad’s Executive Chairman.
Nomad’s Communications Control Units (routers) combine different cellular and satellite feeds. Remote Health Monitoring and operations as well as passenger entertainment is also integrated into the system.
Icomera, from Sweden, shows how Wi-Fi works on trains. Their system relies on transmitting via satellite for the downstream while using cellular for the upstream. The Icomera X6 is their multi-radio wireless router for trains.
Amtrak reports it has carried 27.2 million passengers over its 21,000 route miles in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces. Amtrak also is the partner of choice for state-supported corridor services in 15 states and for several commuter rail agencies.
Amtrak currently aggregates mobile-broadband from AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile to provide service on the NE corridor through its contractor, Virginia Beach-based GBS Group, and its wireless vendor, Nomad Digital. Amtrak Acela is the only high speed train service in the United States, attaining speeds up to 150 mph (240 km/h), and this deployment represents a major milestone in North America, says the company.
In California, the initial Wi-Fi unit was installed last September. All 10 of the Pacific Surfliner business class cars were outfitted with Wi-Fi, enabling passengers to access the Internet for work or entertainment.
Amtrak estimates that internet access will drive ridership and increase revenue by $4.3 million over the next five years.
The company plans to spend an additional $26.2 million to add WiFi to other markets.