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Government unveils proposals to boost mobile broadband on trains

The government has announced proposals for faster wireless broadband on the UK's train network, meaning that by 2019 70 per cent of commuters should benefit from Internet speeds of up to 50Mbit/s.

The transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, unveiled his plans on Monday that in the short-term should result in improved wireless services by as early as 2015. Using their existing communication network, Network Rail has pledged to fund the project, increasing trackside mobile masts and signal boosters on train carriages.

The wireless connection should then be provided over Wi-Fi or 4G LTE with a customer-facing operator not dissimilar to the Virgin Media Wi-Fi currently offered on the London Underground.

“There are few things more frustrating than trying to phone a friend or access the internet, only to be thwarted by bad signal” said McLoughlin upon unveiling the proposals. “Be it hard-working commuters preparing for the day on their journey into work or leisure travellers making final plans for their weekend away, today's announcement marks the beginning of the end of poor coverage on our railways."

Current signal quality on the UK’s rails is shaky, with mobile broadband provisions restricted to a connection speed of 2.5Mbit/s, making streaming services like BBC iPlayer and Netflix virtually impossible to tap into. The upgraded mobile broadband will seek to change this, initially focusing on the busiest 30 per cent of the country’s rail network where the mobile phone signal is weakest.

The next step will see Network Rail producing a business case detailing exactly how it will fund such an initiative.

Image Credit: (Flickr) Train Chartering & Private Rail Cars and Kevin Dooley