News from BWCS

Covid Slows WiFi Expansion on German Trains

Tue 6 Apr 2021

Deutsche Bahn’s impressive investment plans for WiFi on trains have hit a bump in the road. While over 60% of German long-distance trains have now been upgraded for WiFi, the remainder may not be kitted out until 2022 due to Covid restrictions at Deutsche Bahn’s workshops.

The impressive number of Inter-City trains currently offering WiFi was recently revealed in Parliament by the federal government's Rail Commissioner, Enak Ferlemann. National train operator, Deutsche Bahn, has been lauded for its investment in on-train WiFi, which is generally viewed as one of the key drivers in helping lure travellers back onto trains in the post-pandemic world.

In the past four years, the train company has spent more than 200 million euros on expanding its technical WiFi infrastructure at stations, on trains and buses and it says it plans to pour another euros 44 million into growing the service over the coming months.

However, as Herr Ferlemann told the Bundestag “All Intercity wagons used for the Intercity and Eurocity trains will not be equipped with WiFi until 2022."  

Deutsche Bahn’s Chief Executive for passenger services, Berthold Huber cited coronavirus as the reason for the delay, with employees who are working on the expansion only having limited access to their workshops. “That is why we deliberately pushed the equipment of the IC trains back a little to protect against infection so that we can keep the risk of infection in the workshops as small and low as possible,” he said.

The ICE fleet has been offering passengers WiFi across its network since 2017. However, the mobile phone network has not always been up to scratch on all parts of the long-distance routes. Expanding this network is the responsibility of mobile network providers. The Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency) has made it a requirement that mobile network 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  .

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