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Wi-Fi embraces West Country rail stations

The Cloud inks First Great Western deal

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UK public WLAN provider The Cloud is to equip 85 railway stations operated by First Great Western (FGW) with Wi-Fi hotspots, the two companies said today.

The first access points will go live in ten stations this summer: Reading, Bristol Temple Meads, Bath Spa, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, Exeter St Davids, Bristol Parkway, Plymouth, Newbury and Slough. The remaining 75 stations, all in the West of England, will be equipped with Wi-Fi "in due course", FGW said.

Railway WLANs have become the Holy Grail for European WISPs in the quest to get business users wirelessly logging onto the internet and corporate VPNs, and paying handsomely to do so. Train operator companies (TCOs) like the idea too, as a way of tempting road and air passengers back onto the railways. They also see it as a way of enhancing their own company networks.

The Cloud comes a little later than most WISPs to the rail party, though to be fair it's taken many UK TCOs some time to get to a position where station and train refit schedules have allowed them to start building in Wi-Fi technology.

Last November, The Cloud signed a deal to install WLANs at Swedish railway stations through a partnership with Jernhusen, which manages Swedish railway real estate and stations. The FGW deal marks the company's first major UK rail project, and follows its installation of a hotspot at FGW's First Class Lounge at London's Paddington station earlier this year.

Last month, Southern Trains began rolling out Wi-Fi access in its commuter trains on its London-Brighton service, in partnership with technology provider Nomad and WISP T-Mobile.

Broadreach Networks is equipping Virgin Trains with on-board Wi-Fi, as well as station hotspots for Virgin, Eurostar and Network Rail, which owns the UK's major metropolitan stations. TCO GNER is working with technology supplier Icomera to install Wi-Fi to the inter-city trains it runs out of London's Kings Cross. ®

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