As demand for fast reliable Wi-Fi on public transport grows exponentially, FirstGroup and Blu Wireless are today announcing a project to significantly-boost the quality of connectivity on trains, by pioneering the use of 5G technology on the railway. The new technology is so powerful it will enable reliable streaming, rapid browsing and connectivity to cloud-based applications like Office 365 – keeping pace with the requirements of devices that many customers take for granted.
Rail operators have long-sought to improve the quality of Wi-Fi and faced significant cost and technical challenges in doing so. Now, Blu Wireless, First Group and other strategic partners including Network Rail, the Department for Transport and the Department for Culture Media and Sport, have developed an economically viable, end-to-end 5G solution that will transform customers’ journeys. The new technology can process volumes of data 100 times greater than currently possible with 4G technology, meaning it will be much easier for customers to enjoy consistent and fast Wi-Fi connectivity on their train.
The partnership will also be a market first for the UK, with FirstGroup’s Rail Division becoming the exclusive supplier of Blu Wireless’s new 5G rail system for customers and rail infrastructure providers. FirstGroup and Blu Wireless will work to roll out the technology, initially on the South Western Railway franchise. 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.”
Mark Barrett, CMO of Blu Wireless, added: “This partnership will revolutionise commuter connectivity in an innovative and economical way. The system is based on Blu Wireless’s unique ‘mmWave’ communication technology which does not require the hugely complex and expensive infrastructure of cellular systems. 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.”
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Hugh Clancy, First Rail’s Commercial Director said: “I’d like to thank the many suppliers and partners who are making this project successful; we are working together to deliver a giant leap forward for our customers. With the ongoing support of the Department for Transport and Network Rail, this project will see South Western Railway become the UK’s first 5G railway”