Privately-owned, German regional train operating company Ostdeutsche Eisenbahn GmbH (ODEG) has announced it will add WiFi to its fleet of Desiro ML trains from December of this year. The company revealed its plans in a note stating that it had won the contract to run services on the Ostseeküste II (Baltic Coast II) network.
A spokesperson for ODEG described the WiFi on board service as a “new departure” for the train company. She told BWCS that a contract has just been signed with Austrian company Unwired to upgrade the trains and to supply the WiFi connectivity. Unwired currently supplies WiFi on board services to Abellio Rail Mitteldeutschland, which operates 54 Alstom Coradia LINT trains on the Saxony-Anhalt Diesel Network in Germany.
Under the terms of its new track deal, ODEG, which runs 50 trains on 1,250km of track, will be granted a continuation of its rights to run services until 2034. The train company is a joint venture between Prignitzer Eisenbahn (part of the Netinera Group) and BeNEX and operates services for its client - the federal state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and the VMV Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Transport Authority.
Germany boasts one of the most advanced WiFi on trains markets in the world. State-owned train operator, Deutsch Bahn, is investing heavily in its WIFI@DB project. The service is currently available on over 200 regional trains and buses as well as on all InterCity Express trains. In September of last year, DB announced that several hundred more regional trains and buses will be WiFi-enabled over the course of 2021.
Speaking at the time of DB’s announcement, Karl-Peter Naumann, chair of the German passenger association Pro Bahn, called on the local transport sector to follow the train company’s lead. He said, “We need uniformity here, and this is where all rail transport companies have to work together so that the Internet is then also continuously available in local transport."
Deutsch Bahn has said that in principle, it is open to enabling wider use of its platform and encouraging cooperation, however, it is not clear if it is actively being discussed at the moment. According to DB, for 2021, the plan is initially to connect several hundred regional trains and buses from the company's own group to the new platform. In total, the train operator is investing a further 44 million euros in expanding its WiFi network at its stations. It has set up 3,800 access points to date and installed an extra 230km of cables.
In terms of improving mobile network coverage along all rail tracks in Germany, the Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency) has made it a requirement that mobile operators provide coverage of all of the most important train routes by the end of 2022. By the end of 2024, all lines are to be covered. Deutsche Bahn says it is in close contact with mobile network providers in order to improve connectivity on the rail network.
On-train WiFi services, trackside wireless networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi and on-board entertainment will be the main subjects of BWCS’ WiFi on Trains Conference on November 16th and 17th this year. For information on speaking and exhibiting and the one remaining sponsorship spot at the 2021 event, please contact Ross.Parsons@BWCS.com .
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