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Thalys launches on-train WiFi
|16 мая 2008|
European rail operator Thalys this week commercially launched its on-train WiFi service, having already equipped 25% of its 26 trains with wireless technology.
All the company's trains are expected to have WiFi on board by September or October, said Paul Broekhuizen, Head of CT Railways at Nokia Siemens Networks, and director of the consortium formed by Thalys for its WiFi project in September last year.
Broekhuizen was speaking at a press event, entailing a train rise between Brussels and Paris, organised by Thalys to mark Wednesday's launch.
The on-board WiFi equipment cost €200,000 per train, Henry Hyde-Thomson, chairman of 21Net which is responsible for the bi-directional satellite connectivity element of the service, told Total Telecom at the event.
In addition to 21Net, Thalys and Nokia Siemens Networks, the consortium responsible for deploying the on-train WiFi system includes Belgium-based service provider Telenet. Financial details of the partnership have not been disclosed.
"We believe that the need for a connection which is the same as at the office and at home, will soon become a basic need, and a standard in the railway industry," Jean-Michel Dancoisne, CEO of Thalys International, told the media representatives trialing the service on Wednesday.
Unfortunately for Thalys, something went wrong midway through the trip, leaving all the journalists with blank screens.
But when the service was up and running, it recorded speeds of between 5 Mbps and 9 Mbps on a train moving at 300km per hour.
Customers in Comfort 1 (first class) coaches will get Internet access included in their ticket prices, while Comfort 2 (standard class) customers will have to pay €6.50 for 60 minutes of access or €13 for an entire trip.
Dancoisne predicted this will lead to a significant increase in the popularity of the first class coaches.
Nokia Siemens' Broekhuizen added that the plan is to progressively provide multimedia services such as video on demand and gaming as well as basic Internet access.
Connectivity is provided through the Spanish Hispa satellite, which makes contact with antennas on the roof of the train.
The satellite connection is used for most of the journey, but when the trains go through tunnels it switches over to UMTS or WiFi. During this stage a delay of a few seconds might be detected.
Broekhuizen said the commercial launch of ThalysNet, as the service is known, will definitely put pressure on Eurostar and other high-speed train operators to follow suit.
Normal commuter trains, which might not necessarily be high-speed, will also have to start considering it.
One of the biggest problems for the Eurostar, is that it travels through the Eurotunnel, which doesn't belong the rail operator, Broekhuizen said.
It would also be very expensive to cover the entire tunnel, which is 50km long, 38km of which run under the seabed.
Broekhuizen said Nokia Siemens is also involved in tender processes with other high-speed trains, but he was not able to name them.