French train operator SNCF is to deploy passenger WiFi in its 203 Intercity trains and night trains over the next three years. The project, which has been on the drawing board for many months, was finally given the green light this week. Icomera is scheduled to provide the equipment and installation.
The French fleet of TGVs are, of course, already equipped with WiFi, however, the Intercités carriages have, until now, been largely bereft of on-train Internet services. SNCF said that the rest of its fleet will now join the trains on routes such as Paris-Clermont-Ferrand, Paris-Cahors-Toulouse or Bordeaux-Marseille which already benefit from wireless coverage.
Icomera is a subsidiary of Engie Solutions, which, together with 21Net – now part of rival Nomad, was involved with the WiFi roll out on the high-speed trains in France. The Swedish/UK supplier has also already deployed a WiFi solution on the high-speed trains operated by Thalys, a subsidiary of SNCF. This partnership, which involved 26, 8-car trains, was renewed in June 2020.
The upgrades are being installed in a phased approach over three years, and project management, maintenance, and support will be overseen locally by Icomera. For its part, Engie Solutions will take part in the installation and will provide its subsidiary with all the wiring necessary for the deployment of its solution in Intercités cars.
Gauthier Verrier, director of SNCF Intercités customer service, praised “This collaboration, which is in line with our objective to offer the best mobility experience to our passengers. They will be able to travel in France and beyond, taking advantage of all the comforts offered by Icomera's WiFi connection to surf the web, consult social networks and share their vacation photos with their friends and family ”
Icomera, which will use its “rail dedicated” X3 technology in the programme, said it won the contract after numerous successful trials and having offered daily assistance and expertise to SNCF. The project is being financed by the French State, the organising authority for Intercités trains and the WiFi service will be available to passengers free of charge.
According to Wilfrid Petrie, Executive Vice President of ENGIE in charge of ENGIE Solutions, “This (project) is one of the priorities of the French recovery plan, which has provided €5 billion for the development and modernisation of the rail network under the ‘green infrastructures and mobilities’ component.”
SNCF may have been feeling the pressure from across the border in Germany where German train operator Deutsche Bahn is widely viewed as the highest spending European train operator when it comes to passenger WiFi services. Having invested over €200 million on expanding its technical WiFi infrastructure at stations, on trains and buses in recent years, DB recently announced plans to pour a further €44 million into growing the service even further over the coming months.
In addition, the Federal Government is assisting it by demanding that Germany’s mobile network operators greatly increase their coverage of the nation’s rail network.