Rail franchises operators & contracts

26.02.19

South Western Railway to become UK’s first 5G railway as FirstGroup announces deal for superfast Wi-Fi on trains

FirstGroup has announced a deal to become the first UK’s first 5G railway network, bringing superfast Wi-Fi to the Southern Western Railway franchise.

In partnership with Blu Wireless, Network Rail and the DfT, FirstGroup’s rail division has developed an ‘end-to-end 5G solution’, marking a UK market first in bringing 5G to its trains.

Capable of processing volumes of data 100 times greater than currently possible with 4G, the technology will initially be rolled out across the South Western Railway franchise.

FirstGroup said it will become the exclusive supplier of Blu Wireless’s new 5G rail system for customers and railway infrastructure providers, and it will also work with Network Rail to harness 5G to improve railway infrastructure.

Simon Holmes, FirstGroup’s head of digital communication, said: “We have worked hard over the last two-and-a-half years to reach this point which will enable us to deploy 5G technology for the benefit of customers and railway infrastructure.

“Our partnership with BLU Wireless marks a step change for connectivity on customer trains and we look forward to working with them and our other partners to ensure the success of this project.”

First Rail’s commercial director Hugh Clancy thanked the suppliers and partners involved in the project, and celebrated that with ongoing support of the DfT and Network Rail, South Western Railway will become the UK’s first 5G railway.

The technology will allow passengers to enjoy consistent fast Wi-Fi connectivity on train journeys, allowing streaming, rapid browsing, and connectivity to cloud-based applications like Office 365.

Mark Barrett, CMO of Blu Wireless, commented: “This partnership will revolutionise commuter connectivity in an innovative and economical way.

“We believe that the combination of gigabit grade data rate with cost-effective and low power operation will be instrumental in delivering FirstGroup’s customers with best in class on train Wi-Fi services.”

Image credit - Victoria Jones/PA Archive/PA Images

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