The French public railway company, SNCF, chose the French internet operator, Orange, to provide a free Wi-Fi connection on high-speed trains (TGV). The Wi-Fi service should be available in early 2017 in more than 300 selected trains.
Guillaume Pépy, director of the SNCF, promises that a free Wi-Fi connection will be available in more than 300 TGV in 2017. The SNCF is lagging behind its European neighbours, such as Germany and United-Kingdom, who have already proposed a Wi-Fi connection on their high-speed trains. The SNCF chose to team up on this project with French internet operator, Orange.
At the beginning, the SNCF wanted to use satellites to provide a Wi-Fi connection on their trains, but due to several difficulties such as the speed of trains (on average, 300km/h), railway tunnels and having more than 1000 passengers per train, they realized that using 3G and 4G technologies were a better fit for this situation. To ensure a ubiquitous and stable Internet connection with adequate bandwidth in transit, SNCF hired 160 workers to set up Internet antennas on the Paris/Lyon line every 3 kilometers along the railway to guarantee a reliable Wi-Fi signal, an installation which took approximately 16 months to set up. Then, to deploy the network on the train, Orange plans on installling one modem per wagon, with a network composed of certified devices (for security reasons) and set up in a proper way to avoid interferences. Although this project will come at a huge cost (approximately €350 000 per wagon indicatively), it should enable access to a free Wi-Fi connection with a capacity of 80Mbits/s minimum.
In 2010, surveys made by the SNCF reported that free Wi-Fi access on the train is really important for the satisfaction of clients/passengers. Taking into account that practically all the passengers of SNCF carry personal devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers; 69% of the passengers declared that “not having an Internet connection” while travelling is extremely frustrating and 80% would like to have access to Wi-Fi for “simple tasks”, such as working, reading emails and surfing the net, etc. The SNCF promises that there will be no increase in the price ticket for this service and no advertising pop-ups while using the Wi-Fi. The passengers that want to connect to the free Wi-Fi can do so by filling in a form with their email addresses.
The final objective according to Guillaume Pépy is to equip 90% of the railway network with a free Wi-Fi connection in 2019, including regional trains and trains linking Paris to the suburbs.