As a new member of the Nomad team I decided to dig a little deeper into why WiFi on trains is different to the WiFi we have at home. I asked Paul Vaclik, Nomad’s Head of R&D’s Architecture a couple of questions.
Q. Hi Paul, I’m trying to understand why WiFi on trains is different to WiFi at home. I think most people, myself included (when I first started at Nomad) think it’s easy to implement. Can you tell me what makes it so specialised and the types challenges we might come across?
A. Your home WiFi needs to support your family’s phones, tablets and laptops and perhaps a few smart TVs and other devices. A train is a metal box with several hundred people in a small space so WiFi solutions need to deal with a far greater density of connections. However, just getting everyone connected is not the biggest challenge! Passengers want to access the public internet, so we need to provide a very high capacity connection from the train, which is travelling very quickly through many environments – cities, remote rural areas, tunnels, cuttings etc. Nomad’s solutions use multiple connections and adapt very quickly to changing environments so that passengers on the train experience a continuous connection to the internet.
If you want to do some maths – imagine a train travelling at 300km/h passing mobile phone base stations that are 1km apart. That means our connections could be swapping between base stations every 12 seconds… with connection quality that is changing all the time. Providing several hundred passengers with a stable internet connection in those conditions requires some really clever solutions – that’s where we are experts.
Q. Could you also tell me what you think makes Nomad stand out and why our vision ‘connecting everything’ is still as relevant today as it was in 2007?
A. The technologies behind mobile connectivity are evolving very rapidly, as are people’s expectations. It is not that long ago that a home internet connection would struggle to deliver a website with a video. Now we all expect HD video and streaming services on our phones! Nomad’s connectivity solutions continuously evolve to take advantages of advances in technology including 3G, 4G, dedicated trackside networks and will soon include satellite, 5G and beyond. Passengers expect to be able to work, to have up to date information and to be entertained while they travel so the need for Nomad’s products will only continue to grow. And our solutions do far more than connect passengers. A train can contain hundreds of networked devices – sensors, cameras, displays etc and run many software applications so is rapidly evolving into a fast-moving datacentre attached to a complex network. We provide solutions to manage all of those devices, software and data effectively and securely. We are “connecting everything” to provide products and services which make journeys more efficient and enjoyable for passengers and more efficient for operators.