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Rail Broadband Faces Tough Questions Proposals to introduce new high speed broadband services onto Britain's rail network this week may sound like great news for companies who can benefit from the remote working possibilities this would bring – but the likelihood of this being established effectively has been questioned. Research firm IDC has expressed considerable doubts about the adequacy of the measures being proposed.

Associate vice president John Delaney commented that Network Rail's proposed £1.9 billion investment in the new infrastructure will not completely solve the lack of broadband connectivity outside major urban areas, as it can "only ever be as good as the fixed-line network it connects to," a problem previously encountered by mobile firms across continental Europe. He added: "Network Rail’s fibre network will only be an enabler: it is not, in itself, a solution to the problem of broadband access on trains. That needs a high-speed radio access network too, either mobile, or Wi-Fi, or a combination of the two."

Me Delaney stated that this prompts some difficult questions "to which, at present, there are no clear answers," asking: "Who will be allowed to build that radio network? Who would be able to use that network to offer broadband services and on what terms would they have access to the network? Will passengers (sorry – 'customers') be able to use better broadband on trains as part of their regular mobile data subscription, or will they have to pay extra for it?" Such issues may also be of interest to companies who might make use of the new infrastructure. A good example of this would be firms whose staff regularly travel on business trips between major cities and who can continue working while on the train by accessing data remotely through the cloud and similar means.

If the questions can be answered adequately, this opportunity will still exist. The benefits of it would mean, for example, that an individual travelling from London to Manchester would not find their broadband connection fading out once the train had sped beyond the capital's suburbs, only to finally return an hour and a half later. Instead, they would be able to keep going while the train sped past green fields. These may even help tackle another issue mentioned in his comments by Mr Delaney: the lack of a connection in tunnels. While there are few of these between Manchester and London, the issue is a major one when journeys take place between locations separated by hills, such as the Pennines.

Such areas are among what the Department of Transport called 'not spots' in its announcement of the investment this week, which could also include areas of track in deep cuttings or valleys between hills and mountains. This would involve the use of equipment to help get round barriers to a good signal. Such technology is perfectly feasible; it is used to provide a mobile signal in the underground sections of the Tyne-Tees Metro in Newcastle and Gateshead – a system bosses at the London and Glasgow underground systems have looked at introducing.

Moreover, the benefits will be first felt as early as 2015, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said, with 70 per cent of the network connected to the new system by 2019. He noted "hardworking commuters" will be among those who will benefit. All this means that we have an upbeat transport secretary and a positive view from Network Rail, yet a number of uncertainties. Indeed, the measure itself has yet to get funding in place, as the announcement confirmed; it stated that Network Rail and "the industry" would get together to thrash out a funding deal.

However, there may be some very good reasons to be optimistic about the network. For one thing, the talks between Network rail and service providers may indeed focus heavily on the questions asked by Mr Delaney and as a result, answers will be forthcoming in time. Moreover, the very fact that such services could be beneficial to companies and individual members of the public could act as the biggest driver in favour of their establishment. None of that means the questions should not be asked, but it might well help ensure they are answered.

Storetec News/Blogs."" Rail Broadband Faces Tough Questions. October 3, 2013. Storetec.

Rail broadband faces tough questions  
Rail broadband faces tough questions  

Proposals to introduce new high speed broadband services onto Britain's rail network this week may sound like great news for companies who c...