T-Mobile has unveiled ambitious plans to further expand its global Wi-Fi footprint, aiming to install 20,000 hotspots across the world by the end of the year, including trains.
Clearly mindful of the huge growth in VoIP traffic and the corresponding loss of revenue, the network is hoping to ‘own’ a large slice of the WiFi action and keep raking in the profits, no matter how many consumers disconnect from its telephone and cellular networks.
Already a big cheese in the world of Wi-Fi, T-Mobile currently has over 5,300 hotspots in the US and over 7,000 hotpots across Europe.
As part of their uber-expansion meisterplan, T-Mobile (Deutche Telecom’s mobile brand if you didn’t know) is offering WiFi hotspots on trains and what they claim is the first “truly broadband Wi-Fi service” on trains in the UK. We learnt this with some surprise, as GNER have been running a Satellite-powered WiFi service on their trains since April 2004.
Currently trialing on the busy London to Brighton route run by Southern Trains in the UK, the T-Mobile commercial service will launch in Spring. The selection of the route makes perfect sense, with this train line being the physical embodiment of the Information Super Highway, taking Nuu Media types between the two UK centres of online culture.
Naturally, there’s some cunning technological shenanigans involved in keeping Internet connections open while trains plunge into long tunnels, and T Mobile has solved this problem by running a WiMax network running alongside the tracks.
WiMax is a fixed-wireless technology based on the 802.16 standard, and in this instance allows for high speed connectivity of up to 32 Mbps bi-directionally to and from the train. WiMax can run up to 70Mbps. Wi-Fi antennae are then used to distribute the signal within the carriages.
The service will allow commuters an additional 55 minutes of online time in each direction, letting them liven up their journey with remote office work, Web surfing and the ability to email their loved ones to say that they’re stuck in a tunnel somewhere near Gatwick.
If you’re fed up with five pounds an hour WiFi access, you’ll be pleased that T-Mobile is also bringing down its once-eye-wateringly expensive Wi-Fi tariffs to something comparable to US rates. A new “all you can eat” WiFi tariff in the UK offers unlimited wireless access for £20 + VAT per month. This includes train-based access.
Germany appear to get a rougher deal with a time-based, ‘all-bearer’ tariff in Germany priced at 35 Euros for 10 hours. With this customers can download or upload as much data as they like on these schemes via 2.5G, 3G or Wi-Fi over the 10 hours.