Amtrak plans to boost on-board Wi-Fi speeds to 25Mbps between Boston, Washington, D.C.

By Lori Sandoval, Tech Times | June 12, 4:51 AM

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Amtrak Trains with Wi-Fi

Amtrak plans to enhance its free Wi-Fi, criticized to be slow, to better serve passengers connecting to its network. Should passengers expect a connection speed as fast as its trains?
(Photo : Jp Mueller)

Amtrak plans to boost its free Wi-Fi connection service at the Northeast Corridor (NEC) trains for its hundreds of commuters travelling from Washington D.C. to Boston, following complaints of slow to no Internet connection from some travellers.

In a statement on June 9, Amtrak says it is studying its options for upgrading NEC’s on-board free Wi-Fi network, specifically looking to build “a dedicated, wireless trackside network that provides a high-capacity, broadband-speed Internet connection between Washington and Boston.”

“We know that our customers want a consistently reliable and fast on-board Wi-Fi experience – something we cannot guarantee today on our busiest trains when hundreds of customers want to go online at the same time – and we want to make that possible,” says [pdf] Matt Hardison, chief marketing and sales officer at Amtrak.

The wireless trackside network project is meant to provide a real broadband experience to Amtrak passengers, close the current coverage gaps along the lines of NEC and let Amtrak discontinue present restrictions in large-file downloads and media streaming.

Amtrak reveals it is currently soliciting bids for the proof-of-concept project. Its goal is to increase the current available bandwidth of 10Mbps to at least 25 Mbps for each train, in order to meet the growing need of hundreds of commuters for data usage. The company likewise says the results of such test project will define the financial and technical feasibility of constructing the trackside network along the whole 457-mile NEC.

As per the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), Amtrak is also seeking to improve its Wi-Fi connection speed to 100Mbps by 2019. The NARP is the sole national organization in the United States (U.S.) that speaks for users of rail transit and passenger trains.

Such efforts of Amtrak to explore new possibilities for NEC’s Internet service is said to represent the ongoing commitment of the company to use technology in enhancing passenger experience and satisfaction.

Further research says the Wi-Fi connection at Amtrak is slow because of two things: the number of people using it and the challenge of a moving vehicle. It also says the company relies its transmission of gathered data on a 3G wireless radio, but a 3G network doesn’t have much capacity to do this, which is why the network gets congested.

Research also shows that land-based transports, such as Amtrak, are not the only ones seeking to boost Wi-Fi capabilities for its passengers because airlines are doing its own share, too. Gogo Inflight, for example, announced in September last year that it will provide a higher speed Internet service to several U.S. airlines, combining the use of ground-based towers and satellites that may provide network speed of up to 60Mbps.

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