Making phone calls and surfing the internet on a Frecciarossa train will soon be simplicity itself, now that broadband web access, WiFi connections, improved phone reception and new entertainment and information services are coming to Italy’s high-speed trains. Travellers have a lot to look forward to from this summer, thanks to the agreement signed today by Telecom Italia and Italian State Railways CEOs Franco Bernabè and Mauro Moretti.
Under this agreement, Telecom Italia is working with Rete Ferroviaria Italiana to install next-generation mobile radio communications infrastructure along all 900 km of the high-speed rail track between Turin and Naples, and equipping all Frecciarossa trains with support technology systems (mobile radio communications repeater systems and WiFi cabling). Telecom Italia and Trenitalia will begin rolling out the system in April. By the end of the summer, 30% of the fleet will be operational; by the end of the year, all trains will be equipped. The infrastructure is also open to other radio mobile operators who wish to take part in this venture.
Ultrabroadband is ready to depart on the Frecciarossa service, enabling high-speed passengers in the near future to fully exploit the potential of the internet and stay in touch, work, and enjoy entertainment. Passengers will be able to connect their computers to the internet via UMTS USB modems, or via the new on-board WiFi system, which ensures high quality continuous connections. The on-board WiFi system is also accessible to smart phones, netbooks and indeed any other WiFi-enabled device.
Normal phone connection quality will benefit from the new system. The extensive network of transmitters and the mobile radio communications repeater system will strengthen signals on trains and resolve reception problems along the line, especially where trains go through tunnels.
Frecciarossa trains will also be equipped with an on-board server (half of the fleet by the end of the year, and the remainder by summer 2011) so that passengers can access a train portal. The portal will make it possible to create an “on-train community”, and offer users online access to news items from major newspapers, TV programmes, on-demand films, music and videos, weather, traffic information, games, mobile ticketing, taxi reservations, car hire and much else besides.
This project ushers in a true communications revolution. In 2009, Telecom Italia and FS had to resolve a whole series of complex technological challenges through research and trials involving other mobile carriers: over 20% of the high-speed rail network (93% of the line between Bologna and Florence) runs through tunnels; critical issues were associated with shielding electromagnetic waves in train carriages; and the trains' top speeds of 300 km/h degrades 3G/UMTS mobile radio network performance.
Rome, 22 February 2010