Trains in Finland are to benefit from much improved on-train WiFi and 4G mobile connections along the length of the track. The Helsinki administration plans to force Finland’s three mobile network operators (MNOs) to ensure that a 4G signal is available all along all rail routes in the country – “no matter how remote”.
According to national train operator VR’s own figures, 27% of passengers currently deem the mobile network and resultant WiFi service to be poor, while only 31% consider it to be good or very good.
Of course, it is not only when trains disappear across the tundra that the mobile service drops - highly populated areas can also lead to poor signals as too many customers try to simultaneously switch to a new network cell.
For its part VR is fed up of carrying the can for a patchy WiFi service, when it is most often the lack of a reliable mobile connection that is at fault.
The Finnish government stipulated in the most recent round of 4G licensing that operators must ensure rail lines have full signal coverage by no later than February 2020.
As is the norm elsewhere, DNA, Elisa and Telia – Finland’s three MNOs have concentrated on ensuring good coverage of residential areas. Having to expand this to make sure that rail lines are given equal levels of connectivity will, they say, heavily affect their profit margins.
The trio have so far spoken with one voice on the issue, arguing that while covering rail routes is important, providing better WiFi on trains and mobile coverage inn Finland’s remote rural backwoods will cost them tens or even hundreds of millions of euros.
As DNA’s Radio Network Director told Finnish national broadcaster YLE recently, “Use onboard trains is still a relatively small part of total volume. Upgrading all this infrastructure to get the same kind of data services as are available in an urban area nowadays is in practice an unreasonably big endeavour."
Traficom, the Finnish Transport and Communications agency, said it has yet to set a minimum quality threshold for the mobile signal that must be provided. Meanwhile, train company VR has invited the mobile network operators to start talks on upgrading data services for its passengers later this month.
On-train WiFi services, trackside networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi and on-board entertainment will be the main subjects of BWCS’s WiFi on Trains Conference next June. For information on speaking and sponsorship opportunities at the 2020 event, please contact Ross.Parsons@BWCS.com .
The 2019 conference (www.Traincomms2019.com ) was sponsored by Icomera, Nomad Digital, Fluidmesh, RADWIN and BAI Communications.