New technology could end poor quality wi-fi on trains

The flat antenna connects to a satellite to offer passengers a much faster, more reliable connection.

Researchers at Edinburgh’s Heroit-Watt University have developed new technology which could put a stop to bad wi-fi on Britain’s trains.

They’ve created a flat antenna, which can easily be placed on top of the carriages, that’s able to connect to an orbiting satellite in order to provide reliable, high-speed broadband.

"It's fairly lightweight, at a fraction of the cost of existing solutions and will provide global coverage," said one of the project’s engineers Samuel Rotenburg.

Trains currently use the mobile phone network to provide wi-fi to passengers but because the issue of rural “notspots”, where mobile coverage is either poor or non-existent, the connection often becomes weak and patchy.

Attaching a standard full-size satellite to the top of a train also isn’t particularly practical.

One slight issue with Heroit-Watt’s technology is that it loses its connection whilst in a tunnel because it’s now out of view of the satellite.

Speaking to the BBC, principal investigator George Goussetis explained how this improved wi-fi could help improve onboard safety and security.

“When they are in a remote area, the train operator doesn't have any control over the train," he said. "They don't know where they are, what speed, if there is an accident or an emergency.

"They are completely blind - and they need information. A data stream from sensors via satellite will deliver it.”

The Heroit-Watt research team are now in the process of forming their own start-up named Infinect and will begin trialling their technology with a major rail operator sometime later this year.

Source: BBC News

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