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Indian Railways’ attempts to provide Internet on trains comes a cropper

Attempts to provide cheap and reliable Internet connectivity onboard trains in India have not met with much success so far due to the lack of suitable technology, Indian Railways said.

Indian Railways tried to use three types of technology – 3G, Wimax and Satellite, in its tests.

In all three cases, reliable and cost-effective Internet could not be provided.

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While the problem with 3G was unavailability of cellular signal in many areas, the problem with the other two were cost-related.

“Availability is poor in sections having no mobile coverage. Throughput (bandwidth available to users) is also less,” it noted on its tests with cellular technology. The tests were carried out in various routes.

Tests were also carried out using Wimax. The idea was to install Wimax antennae beside the track for exclusive use of rail travelers. The tests, conducted along Bangalore-Chennai route, were deemed to capital intensive.

The final technology, satellite-based broadband, was able to deliver fast Internet, but the cost – both upfront and recurring – were found to be very high. The Indian Railways used a satellite tracking dish antenna for the purpose.

Efforts to find a reliable solution, using cellular as the main source and satellite as a back-up, are currently on, Indian Railways said.

“As phase-I of this work, provision of Wi-Fi facility in Ahmedabad Rajdhani and selected pair of Shatabdi Express ( total 6 rakes with spares) is being taken up at an approximate cost of Rs 11.03 crores to further evaluate the system and find a cost-effective solution.”

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