Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) in Stockton, Calif., signed an agreement with PointShot Wireless in Ottawa, Canada, to offer its commuters free Internet, e-mail, instant messaging and corporate intranet access via wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) connections.
ACE is the first transit service in the U.S. to operate a Wi-Fi-enabled train as part of a three-month trial that began in September and ends in mid-December. Network access is free to all passengers during the trial period, and a Wi-Fi- enabled laptop or PDA is the only equipment necessary to access the system.
PointShot Wireless’ Railpoint Wi-Fi Solution works by engaging a satellite that beams an Internet connection to antennae mounted on the train’s roof. A server in the train’s roof handles incoming and outgoing Internet requests, which are processed through satellite connections received and processed through cell towers positioned along the rail route. Passengers use wireless cards in their laptop or PDA to connect with the server.
Although free during the trial period, the service will eventually incur a charge. “ACE will start negotiations for fare charges sometime in November,” said Chris Juelch, project manager for the Wi-Fi installation. “The process will most likely involve some passenger input.”
PointShot Wireless’ Railpoint Wi-Fi Solution benefits both ACE and its business passengers who commute daily from Stockton to San Jose, Calif., as the system attracts additional commuters while generating new profits. Commuters can experience onboard productivity or simply enjoy the system’s entertainment value.