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T-Mobile launches WiMax net access for UK trains

Massive hotspot expansion plan too

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T-Mobile has pledged to take its global Wi-Fi hotspot tally to 20,000 sites by the end of the year, including both fixed locations and mobile access points on UK trains connected to the net via WiMax.

The 20,000-hotspot target is double the company's goal for 2004. In fact, it exceeded its expectations thanks to a burst of activity in Europe. In October 2004, Joe Sims, T-Mobile's US hotspot chief, said the company would close the year with 6,000 sites in the US and 4,000 more in Europe. In the end, it missed the US target, with only 5,300 sites, but surpassed the European complement with 7,000 locations.

T-Mobile's total includes sites it maintains itself, such as those in Starbucks coffee shops, Texaco gas stations and Borders bookstores, and sites open to its customers through roaming deals.

Getting on board the UK's rail network is particularly interesting, as it represents the first use of a 32Mbps WiMax backbone for the service, currently being trialled on Southern Trains' London to Brighton run. To date, internet access has been connected to on-board Wi-Fi networks through fast satellite links, with slower GPRS connections used as a fall-back when the line of sight between satellite and antenna is blocked. T-Mobile says its WiMax-based set-up, designed and installed by Nomad, will maintain high-speed connectivity throughout the journey.

T-Mobile will launch the service commercially next month, so may yet prove to be one of the first commercial WiMax roll-outs in the world. Available in three carriages on 14 trains from today, the service is currently free. ®

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