TGV tests Wi-Fi + satellite link in three TGV trains on its Eastern network. If the experiment proves successful the new service should be generalized, from 2009, to all 52 oars network East.
With combines effort of satellite link and wireless network, in locations, such tunnels and train stations, where the satellite link cannot be established, the wi-fi network takes over to maintain the access to the Web without interruption.
French railways company SNCF previously conducted unsuccessful test using GPRS data network before launching a 2 years research and preparation program to implement this dual solution. Among technical difficulties to overcome are these related to 320 km/h TGV trains speed which causes instability and vibrations.
SNCF will put on board of its TGV a dedicated Web portal providing information about destinations, weather forecast, News, traffic information as well as a real time tracking service. From a technical point of view, TGV trains are fitted with a server where all portal content is loaded prior the journey in order to minimize bandwidth consumption due to its high cost. The tested system has been designed to provide simultaneous web connection for 14 per cent (50 users) of the total capacity of each TGV train (350).
The business plan is not defined yet, but the widespread of the system on TGV Eastern Europe network would represent an investment of 120 millions USD over 4 years. First price estimation given by SNCF Passenger service would be a flat 4-5 USD to access the Web portal during the whole journey and a 4-5 USD per hour to access the Internet.
A very interesting project and definitively a real challenge to maintain permanent web connectivity during a train journey at more than 300 km/h where the 16'000 volt power line running over the train may also create some electro-magnetic interferences and without mentioning all micro interruptions of the satellite link each time the train pass under a bridge or when dense foliage is found within the satellite's line of sight.
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