Mass Transit WiFi

Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a significant increase in requests coming from mass transit agencies looking for solutions to provide reliable WiFi on commuter trains and metro lines. Mass Transit WiFi was not part of the mission of most of mass transit agencies a few years ago. Being disconnected during daily commuting was the norm and Mass Transit WiFi was seen as an unnecessary feature for commuter rail and subways.

Mass Transit WiFi User

Mass Transit WiFi User

Recent studies have shown that the demand for WiFi on trains goes up exponentially when the trip exceeds 20 minutes because passengers and commuters want to be productive and, in order to be productive nowadays, they must be connected. In response,  several mass transit agencies and commuter rail operators have been working on designing Mass Transit WiFi systems for their rail services. They’re looking to provide a truly broadband experience on-board and very often a seamless WiFi experience with the WiFi coverage in the rail stations.

The need for mass transit WiFi is clearly evidenced in a recent Ericsson Report published by Ericsson Consumer Lab. Ericsson performed a Voice of the Customer campaign interviewing commuters in four major cities and asking about the commuter relationship with connectivity and the Internet. The report presents evidence that a significant portion of passengers commuting by mass transit browses the Web or visits media while on mass transit vehicles. For example, in New York, 48% of mass transit passengers browse the Web and 54% of them use social networks onboard when WiFi or cellular coverage are available. In London, 40% of commuters use the Internet on board. According to the Ericsson report, 55% of people commuting using mass transit are currently dissatisfied with data communication services while they’re commuting. 66% of commuters using video streaming applications are dissatisfied by onboard connectivity on mass transit vehicles. Ericsson’s report also shows a difference in perception between commuters travelling by car versus the users of mass transit systems or rail: commuters using personal vehicles blame cellular network operators when they’re dissatisfied by the performance of voice or data connectivity but commuters using public transport blame the transit agency or the rail operators when they’re dissatisfied with the onboard connectivity.

Mass Transit WiFi

Mass Transit WiFi

Increased interest in Mass Transit WiFi shows that mass transit agencies and rail operators are very well aware that a mass transit WiFi system that delivers truly broadband connectivity and allows continuous voice and video streaming can drive up ridership and passengers satisfaction. As Millennials who are teenagers right now become workers and commuters, the need for Mass Transit WiFi and broadband connectivity on board will increase exponentially and mass transit agencies will be required to invest in their network to provide satisfactory passenger experience. I am very pleased by the increased awareness in the past couple of years and I am positive that we will see many connected train systems with Mass Transit WiFi solutions deployed in 2016, which will cause a dramatic rise in passenger satisfaction.

WiFi Commuter Train

WiFi Commuter Train

Bringing broadband WiFi to mass transit vehicles and metro lines is often challenging because some lines operate in old and narrow tunnels with limited space for antennas and older trains are not equipped with an on-board wired Ethernet networks. Therefore, Fluidmesh has developed a solution to meet the needs of these challenging scenarios using low profile antennas that can fit in narrow tunnels built over 100 years ago and with intra-car wireless links to create a connected train leveraging the strengths of wireless mesh networks. If you are interested in learning more about how Fluidmesh can help in Mass Transit WiFi, please contact us. Our wireless network design team will be glad to support your needs for on board WiFi connectivity with the goal of exceeding passengers’ expectations 100% of the time.

Umberto Malesci

Fluidmesh Networks

CEO and Co-Founder

Twitter: @umbertomalesci @fluidmesh