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Analyst says Brit rail broadband plan is TRAIN CRAZY

Blackspot-filling program 'raises a lot more questions than it answers'

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Analyst outfit IDC has found fault in a new plan to “fix” broadband blackspots around Britain's rail network.

UK Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced the plan on Monday, declaring it is time to start fixing “areas along rail corridors with intermittent or poor coverage of mobile phone signals” so that “hardworking commuters preparing for the day on their journey into work or leisure travellers making final plans for their weekend away” are not “thwarted by bad signal.”

“Few things more frustrating” than such thwarting, McLoughlin said.

IDC likes the intent of McLoughlin's announcement and notes that Network Rail, the owner and operator of the UK's rail infrastructure, is next year scheduled to complete a five-year £1.9bn project to extend its fixed and wireless networks.

That project is welcome, says John Delaney, an associate veep for mobility research at IDC, before saying Network Rail's kit “is not, in itself, a solution to the problem of broadband access on trains. That needs a high-speed radio access network too, either mobile, or wifi, or a combination of the two.”

Delaney then offers the following analysis:

“It’s here that questions arise to which, at present, there are no clear answers. Who will be allowed to build that radio network? Who would be able to use that network to offer broadband services, and on what terms would they have access to the network? Will passengers (sorry – 'customers') be able to use better broadband on trains as part of their regular mobile data subscription, or will they have to pay extra for it? If they have to pay extra, how will competition between on-train broadband service providers be ensured?”

Delaney also takes issue with a detail of the the announcement, namely that it will focus on “the busiest parts of Britain’s rail network.”

“Which are 'the busiest parts of the rail network'?” Delaney asks. “What happens when you’re on a train that goes from one of the busiest parts to one of the less busy parts?”

The analyst signs off by saying he feels the Monday announcement “seems to raise a lot more questions than it answers.” ®

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