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UK train firm rolls out Wi-Fi to all travellers

Wireless Internet no longer a First Class privilege

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UK rail company GNER today granted its Second Class passengers access to its train-wide Wi-Fi network. To date, wireless Internet access has been the privilege of First Class ticket holders.

First Class passengers will continue to be offered the service free of charge, as part of their ticket. However, Second Class travellers will have to pay for access. Prices run from £2.95 to £9.95, depending on the length of their journey. Payment is made by credit card when the passenger logs on to the service.

GNER began trialling on-board Wi-Fi in December 2003 on two trains running between London's Kings Cross and Scotland along the UK's East Coast main line. In April 2004, it announced it would expand the service to ten Mallard-class trains by the end of the year, with wireless technology added to each regular Mark 4 coach as it is upgraded to Mallard status. Over time, GNER plans to install Wi-Fi on all 302 carriages destined to be part of its Mallard fleet. The updated carriages also sport power sockets for notebook computers and other devices.

At that time, GNER said it would roll out the service to all passengers.

The service itself - dubbed GNER Mobile Office - uses a satellite link to connect a carriage's Wi-Fi access point to the Internet. Multiple GSM/GPRS connections are used when the train passes through a tunnel or moves inside a station where the satellite's line-of-sight is blocked. Mobile Office is based on technology from Swedish railway Wi-Fi specialist Icomera.

Virgin Trains is currently equipping its Pendolino locomotives and carriages with Wi-Fi, in partnership with Broadreach Networks. Virgin will offer the service to both First and Second Class ticket holders, and is expected to have access enabled on all its trains by the Autumn. Wi-Fi access is already available in Virgin's First Class lounges at London Euston, Coventry, Birmingham New Street, Stoke-on-Trent and Manchester Piccadilly. ®

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