Management & Operations

Caltrain high-speed Wi-Fi test a success

Posted on September 13, 2006

In late July, California commuter rail system Caltrain became the first to successfully test high-speed wireless Internet access in a railcar traveling at speeds up to 79 mph.

The proof-of-concept testing, held in conjunction with Intel Solution Services and Nomad Digital Ltd., was conducted along 16 miles of track between the Millbrae and Palo Alto stations.

It was deemed a success when multiple people surfed the Internet simultaneously, watching streaming video, answering e-mail and completing a large file download all while maintaining continuous connectivity at broadband speed.

“Caltrain reinvented itself when it introduced faster train service,” said Caltrain Board Chair Ken Yeager. “With this cutting-edge technology, [it] is poised for future success.” Passengers can now use their laptop to access the Internet during their commute without the need for additional plugs, wires, adapters, software, hardware or mobile phones. Caltrain operators also benefit from this technology as they are able monitor the performance of their trains, install real-time security CCTV and locate their fleet.

Intel has architected a number of successful wireless initiatives around the world. Its partner Nomad provided Caltrain its mobile communication system, which links the train to trackside wireless base stations, with radios located every few miles along the rail line.

“Our high-performance mobile networking technology gives passengers the luxury of turning commute time into productive office time. And what better place to bring this technology than Silicon Valley,” said Nomad Executive Chairman Nigel Walbridge. Other technology providers for the testing included Sensoria Corp. of San Diego and Redline Communications of Toronto.

With the testing complete, Caltrain plans to continue its work on engineering required before the wireless access can be implemented along the entire rail mainline.

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