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Virgin Trains UK Trials 5G Fuelled Wi-Fi on West Coast Mainline

Friday, December 6th, 2019 (11:14 am) - Score 2,536
18th March 2016, King’s Cross, London: Sir Richard Branson unveils the Virgin Azuma – the first of Virgin Trains’ new fleet of trains which is set to revolutionise travel on the East Coast from 2018.

For further information please contact Nicola Burton at Hope & Glory PR on 07892 692 825 or nicola.burton@hopeandglorypr

Virgin Trains has worked with mobile operator Vodafone UK and McLaren Applied to trial a new ultrafast 5G powered onboard WiFi network for commuters travelling via their trains on the West Coast Mainline route (i.e. the trial took place between London Euston, Birmingham New Street and Manchester Piccadilly).

Apparently the initial trial took place last month, although a second trial is planned to begin from this Sunday (8th December 2019) when the West Coast Mainline franchise switches over to become Avanti West Coast.

Commuters on one of these trains are thus being told to expect “super-fast internet” that is “up to ten times faster” than what they’d normally expect to receive, which doesn’t tell us much since onboard WiFi tends to be both highly variable and often quite unreliable.

John Sullivan, CIO at Virgin Trains, said:

“Virgin Trains has always aimed to deliver the best customer experience by offering our passengers the latest in technological innovation. Over the course of our 22-year tenure, we have launched industry firsts including Amazon Alexa ticket booking, disruption management, Automatic Delay Repay and BEAM – our on-board entertainment streaming service.

We may be coming to the end of our time running the West Coast Mainline but Virgin Trains is excited to be playing an important part in the early stages of this 5G project, which is another example of how we have led the way in digital innovation within the rail industry.”

Vodafone has of course already conducted 5G trials at Birmingham New Street station (here) and so we’re not surprised to see them working with Virgin Trains. The Government has long planned to make “uninterrupted” WiFi and Mobile (5G) broadband speeds of up to 1Gbps (Gigabits per second) available on-board all UK mainline train routes by 2025, albeit not without the odd hiccup (here).

Leave a Comment
8 Responses
  1. Avatar eM says:

    Weird. Why would Virgin Trains invest into something if they’re about to lise their West Coast franchise this coming Sunday?
    Also, the picture isn’t right. Azuma trains operate on East Coast route, it used to be run by Virgin Trains but is now run by LNER. On West Coast, they use Pendolino and Virgin Voyager trains.

    1. Avatar Laurence "GreenReaper" Parry says:

      Maybe Vodaphone were paying them to trial it? Or they’d agreed to do it beforehand and it was just carried over?

      As I understand it the franchise is a separate body from the company running it – most of the staff are carried over, so I wouldn’t be surprised if contracts to test are as well. Virgin were driving the WCML ship, but once they leave the bridge it keeps going there it’s pointed until a new course is set.

  2. Avatar Holly says:

    I must admit I have used BEAM in 1st class going to Glasgow and it’s pretty awesome. It’s a shame the rest of Virgin first class isn’t so hot

    1. Avatar Ryan says:

      I believe the content on beam is actually hosted locally on train.

    2. Avatar Holly says:

      Hi Ryan, Yes it is. When you go onto the main screen it says the content is streamed via the wifi from on board systems. I watched about 5 films and had not a second of stuttering. It’s pretty cool

  3. Avatar Bob de Builder says:

    All pretty pointless really, Virgin Trains cease to exist entirely from the 8th of December 2019!

    https://www.virgintrains.co.uk/franchise-update

    1. Avatar CarlT says:

      The name will change. The trains, WiFi included, will keep running.

      Much as they did on the East Coast mainline.

      The entire mainline and all rolling stock doesn’t cease to exist because a franchise runs out.

  4. Avatar Mark Steele says:

    5G IS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY – SMALL BUSINESSES AND SHAREHOLDERS WILL BE BANKRUPTED AND THEIR HOMES TAKEN FROM THEM FOR INSTALLING THIS UNINSURABLE WEAPON SYSTEM.

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