This report presents the background of technical experimentation with broadband installation on trains and new business models arising due to broadband installation.
The study investigated, from the technical and economical viewpoints, the feasibility of introducing on-train broadband and how both the train operator as well as the passengers could utilize it. When considering this utilization aspect, the investigation also tried to clarify whether it would be possible to improve the range and quality of GSM reception with the help of broadband connection.
The test method remained unchanged, but instead of several separate data transfer tests we decided to test with a single large data transfer (16.7 MB). In the beginning the data transfer rate was around 12 kBps, but gradually decreased and towards the end remained at the level of 5.5 kBps. After testing the transfer rate of this large archive, we then tested with some slightly smaller archives.
In connection with the feasibility study a questionnaire was distributed to train passengers asking their opinions about Internet connection and the related services.
There are two different versions of the final report: public and internal. The public version focuses on general presentation of the technical experiment and generic examination of new business models. The internal version includes more precise discussion on the actual results of the technical experiment, some of which have been completely excluded from the public report.
The feasibility study showed that it would make sense to use several different wireless data transmission technologies for on-train broadband implementation. This would enable the use of each technology in its optimal environment resulting in maximally cost-efficient solutions. The solution outlined would, in practice, be very challenging to implement, but IBM who participated in the feasibility study indicated having found a solution for the implementation. That solution, however, has not yet been tested for example with the Flash-OFDM and WiMAX technologies – therefore, at this stage it is still not possible to guarantee that the proposed solution would be fully reliable. The Flash-OFDM, and WiMAX technologies proposed as suitable candidates for on-train broadband are so new that the information related to their functioning in mobile environments is still insufficient. Apart from being affected negatively by high train speeds, the propagation of radio signals can be affected by other factors such as electromagnetic fields in the environment. It is very difficult to predict or model the propagation of radio signals in such environments.
Due to the still existing technological uncertainties as discussed above, the feasibility study group decided to set up a proof-of-concept test in order to subject the solutions proposed in the feasibility study to practical tests. In addition to studying a connection router that would enable the use of several different technologies, the investigation also targeted the functioning of the WiMAX and Flash-OFDM technologies in moving trains.