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FirstGroup and Blu Wireless to Upgrade UK Trains with 5G Broadband

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019 (3:12 pm) - Score 2,707

A new partnership between Blu Wireless, Network Rail, the Department for Transport, DCMS and FirstGroup has been announced that could see Gigabit capable 5G Fixed Wireless Broadband being installed on-board trains for South Western Railway, Great Western Railway, the TransPennine Express and Hull Trains.

The new 5G based “track-to-train infrastructure” will harness millimetre wave (mmWave) radio spectrum frequencies in the 57-71GHz bands in order to deliver multi-Gigabit data rates “within the demanding system, cost and power constraints for this railway application

Blu Wireless describes this system as a “uniquely adaptedFixed Wireless Access (FWA) solution, which does not require the “hugely complex and expensive” infrastructure of cellular systems. “We believe that the combination of gigabit-grade data rates with cost-effective and low-power operation will be instrumental in delivering FirstGroup’s passengers with best-in-class on-train Wi-Fi services,” said Blu’s Mark Barrett.

The aforementioned company is also deploying this technology for other applications, such as to extend Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) services using gigabit-rate wireless internet connectivity. No details about that were revealed today.

Simon Holmes, FirstGroup’s Head of Digital Comms, said:

“We have worked hard over the last two-and-a-half years to reach this point which will enable us to deploy 5G technology for the benefit of customers and railway infrastructure.

Our partnership with BLU Wireless marks a step change for connectivity on customer trains and we look forward to working with them and our other partners to ensure the success of this project.”

FirstGroup runs a number of UK rail franchises, although at present they’ve only officially confirmed that trains on their South Western Railway will be the first in the country to benefit (timescale TBA). This will obviously help to support the Government’s original pledge to make “uninterruptedWiFi and Mobile (5G) broadband speeds of up to 1Gbps (Gigabits per second) available on-board all UK mainline train routes by 2025.

The move is well timed as it follows after a number of surveys revealed that commuters were broadly unhappy with the often poor state of on-board internet connectivity (here). On the other hand it’s worth noting that the Government recently shelved the 5G mobile aspect of their Trans Pennine Rail trial due to costs (here). Suffice to say that such challenges may not be unique to the Trans Pennine route.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
1 Response
  1. Avatar Park

    This will be fun – right now you send 3 whatsapp messages you have used your allowance – we might get 5 or 6 from this lol

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