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GNER to spend £1m on Wi-Fi trains

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GNER rail company in the UK has partnered with mobile solutions firm Icomera to provide Wi-Fi on its trains running between Scotland and London.

Great North East Railway (GNER) is investing £1 million ($1.6 million) on rolling out broadband Internet access on its fleet of high-speed trains, which it hopes will up its appeal among travellers, particularly business travellers who are most likely to use laptops and PDAs. GNER already has a 40:60 ratio of business to leisure passengers and carries in the region of 15 million passengers each year.

"I think it will take off," said Sandra O'Boyle, senior analyst for Current Analysis. "The airline industry is going the same way. I'd love to see it in action." O'Boyle said that taking the train and using its Internet access may be more productive than flying, since no time is wasted waiting to board a train, as is the case with flights.

O'Boyle said that as young people start to use wireless devices for gaming, the popularity of Wi-Fi on trains should be boosted.

Icomera, the company providing the wireless connections, is based in Gottenburg, Sweden where it recently introduced Wi-Fi on Linx trains running between Gottenburg and Copenhagen. Roll-out on trains serving Oslo-Karlstad-Stockholm is scheduled for later this year.

Crucial to the success of Wi-Fi on high-speed trains is the delivery of a reliable wireless connection through a number of systems, according to Current Analysis. Icomera uses multiple GPRS, GSM and satellite links to deliver Internet access on trains going at speeds of up to 200km per hour. The company has also collaborated with train operators, manufacturers and regulators to ensure its solution meets industry standards

GNER has conducted trials to find out what the quality of the GSM network is like along the east coast rail route from London to Inverness, according to Current Analysis' report, which concluded that coverage was 98 per cent.

GNER hopes to introduce Wi-Fi on a three-month trial basis from mid-September on the route between London Kings Cross and Scotland, and subsequently roll it out across all its trains. The price for the service has not yet been released, but research from BWCS released in May found that most potential Wi-Fi users said they would be prepared to pay up to £5 for wireless access on a train journey. The company said that given current laptop take-up, the UK's train Wi-Fi market is worth about £6 million this year. According to BWCS estimates, this will rise to £47 million by 2007. The total European market could be worth nearly £400 million a year by 2007. ®

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