Northern Powerhouse

24.07.20

£200k investment for better mobile connections on our railways

The days of losing internet connection whilst travelling on the train are over as Grant Shapps has today (23rd July) announced a £200,000 investment to launch research into developing an innovative prototype to improve mobile connectivity.

Research funded by the Department for Transport has found that it is possible to attach communications antennas to them, improving connectivity for passengers whilst reducing the need to build additional track-side masts, therefore cutting costs.

With over a third of the 11,000 miles of Great Britain’s railways electrified using Overhead Line equipment, The Mott MacDonald report, published today, found there is a noteworthy potential to utilize these current structures to mount equipment, a technique which is progressively being used in countries such as Austria to address railway mobile connectivity challenges.

Telecom operators are now being encouraged to propose and develop suitable equipment for the next phase of the trial, which will test how antennas can be safely fitted onto OLE in a live railway environment with findings expected to be published by March 2021.

Today’s news comes in light of Ofcom’s guidelines, set to be published on Monday, with updated advice on suitable bands for trackside Wi-Fi connectivity, supporting Government efforts to improve connectivity on the railway.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “It is just not good enough that passenger’s mobile connectivity experience is still poor, blighting our efforts to work, shop and communicate on everyday journeys. 

“By harnessing innovation and updating existing infrastructure, we can build the railway of tomorrow and find affordable solutions to improve travel for passengers. I urge telecom operators to match our ambition, and we can commit to working closely together to design equipment and move forward in the next stage of this exciting trial.”

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