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France to roll out Wi-Fi on high-speed train lines

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French national rail company SNCF will from Friday offer passengers Wi-Fi access on two major 300kmph services in a year-long trial of the technology.

Wireless Internet access will be provided on SNCF's Paris-Bordeaux and Bordeaux-Pau TGV (Train à Grand Vitesse) high-speed rail links. The service will commence on 17 October.

Travellers without Wi-Fi enabled PDAs or laptops will be able to rent kit from SNCF during their journey. SNCF hasn't said how much it will charge for notebook rentals ahead of the launch on Friday. Nor has it said how much it will charge for access to its WLAN, or how the service will be billed - per trip, per hour or some other timespan.

However, it is known that the service will be accompanied by pay-per-view access to eight online media channels provided by French news aggregation service Makkina. Channels will focus on French and international news, sport, business, and local information about the train's destination.

The wireless infrastructure has been put in place by IBM. The trial will be used to determine demand for the service and get a feel for what kinds of information users will want to access.

In April, SNCF began offering Wi-Fi at Gare du Nord station in Paris. ®

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