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Real Wireless warns existing UK networks need upgrade to cope with demand for wireless on transport

Technology advisory firm, Real Wireless, has made a critical evaluation of the UK’s public and private mobile connectivity to travellers based on wireless industry experts’ opinions

The UK risks failing to meet demand, with Real Wireless claiming that service demands will only be met through the rollout of additional custom mobile infrastructure. 

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Rail
Under the plans announced by secretary of state for transport, Patrick McLoughlin, in 2013, the UK government is aiming for 70 per cent of the public travelling by train to benefit from Wi-Fi by 2019.

Speaking with Land Mobile, Mark Keenan, commercial director at Real Wireless, views the headline promise (70 per cent of passengers to get 50Mbps by 2019) as a challenging goal. “Connectivity to trains is not a trivial task, not only are a lot of lines in very remote or challenging locations, the trains themselves are essentially very fast moving Faraday cages.”

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Aerospace
LTE and regulation reductions for electronic device usage have made high-speed data connectivity on aircraft a viable option. However, Real Wireless says there are ‘major stumbling blocks’ to overcome before this is viable on international flights, and the company views co-operation across several regions and groups as important to overcoming challenging frequency regulations.

There are some programs working on modifying existing cellular connectivity so that planes can connect to the ground, using an LTE variant, but this requires spectrum – and ideally global spectrum – which is hard to allocate,” explains Keenan. “But great progress is being made in CEPT (European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations) on allocating spectrum for Direct Air To Ground (DA2G), which would be around 2 GHz and at 5.8 GHz, and of course we already have European harmonised spectrum for satellites with a complementary ground component.

“Connectivity via satellite is global, and the spectrum exists, but satellite communications have historically been expensive and they bring their own technical difficulties with them - not least latency issues.”

Solution

If a solution is to be reached, Keenan advises that transport operators should build a comprehensive business case for the introduction of wireless. He explains that this would need to take into account both direct and indirect cost savings, revenue streams, and recent and expected advances in technology. “A well considered approach can prove highly lucrative for operators and regulators, as well as streamlining their everyday operations and enhancing their customers’ experience.” 

In its guide, The business opportunities for wireless in transport, Real Wireless identifies the added benefits wireless can offer the following sectors:

  • Railways - enhanced customer services, better insights in to customer behaviour and reduced carriage weight
  • Aerospace - reduced turnaround time, more effective airport security and crisis management and revenue from on demand content
  • Roads - accident prevention, shorter accident response times, and enhanced traffic flow systems to reduce congestion
  • Maritime - onboard cellular networks, better tracking of cargo and new revenue streams for port operators 

Real Wireless based its research on several projects with transport clients such as Heathrow Airport Holdings; formerly BAA. “We have previously examined the solutions posited for improved connectivity in homes, offices and public venues,” explains Keenan. “In some ways, transportation is the last remaining environment where joined-up solutions are yet to emerge. We think it’s time to fix that.”

Image credit: Battersea Power Station London: Loco Steve / Birmingham Airport: Elliot Brown


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