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Why the high value of connectivity can’t be ignored on the trains

Whilst temporally stopping life as we know it, causing devastation on a personal and economic level, COVID19 has exposed a positive in the high value that good digital connectivity brings to our lives.

Whether it’s catching up with family and friends, working remotely and attending audio and video conference meetings, ordering essential supplies these are all being facilitated by digital connectivity and which are becoming more and more accepted as the norm.

I have wondered how the work environment will look once life starts to return to what we previously considered to be normal. I believe people will take a more cautious approach in returning to a previous view of normality, maybe spending less time in the office or just using the office for key meetings. I do however consider there will still be a need for travel, and it is essential people are able to keep productive by using the digital connectivity available on the transportation networks.

From several recent surveys, it is clear digital connectivity whilst we travel is becoming expected and rightly criticised when not available.  Transport systems, specifically rail, embraced digital connectivity to the train in various ways, accelerated through the introduction of 3G back in early 2004, for both operation and passenger WiFi connectivity. However, even with the introduction of 4G (LTE) both operational and Passenger WiFi systems are not getting the full route coverage or indeed the quality of service required to fully support these services.

The growth in data-hungry applications and entertainment is particularly highlighting this issue.  As data demands increase, the train operator’s data costs typically rise in line with the passenger demand, unfortunately, the experience the passengers get of this service is generally poor, due to low data throughputs on the cellular links or lack of consistent coverage.

As we await the new world of 5G, and what that really looks like in terms of improving the passenger experience, I suggest the future has a mix of cellular and private networks providing the best experience to the travelling passengers.