Virgin Trains introduces 5G WiFi onboard

Virgin Trains has become the first train operator to trial onboard 5G WiFi, offering customers a faster connection while travelling.

Working with McLaren Applied and Vodafone, the train operator is testing super-fast onboard broadband that will offer customers WiFi connections that are up to 10 times faster.

The technology was tested on Virgin Trains services in November between London Euston and Birmingham New Street, as well as on the route to Manchester Piccadilly. This marks an exciting move towards next generation WiFi for customers who want to be connected on the move. Testing will continue from December 8th when the West Coast Mainline franchise switches over to become Avanti West Coast.

John Sullivan, chief information officer at Virgin Trains says: “Virgin Trains has always aimed to deliver the best customer experience by offering our passengers the latest in technological innovation. Over the course of our 22-year tenure, we have launched industry firsts including Amazon Alexa ticket booking, disruption management, Automatic Delay Repay and BEAM – our on-board entertainment streaming service. 

“We may be coming to the end of our time running the West Coast Mainline but Virgin Trains is excited to be playing an important part in the early stages of this 5G project, which is another example of how we have led the way in digital innovation within the rail industry.”

Paul Bebbington, director of public transport at McLaren Applied, added: “We're delighted to be working with Vodafone and Virgin Trains to improve train connectivity performance and enable a step change in faster and more reliable Wi-Fi with the advent of 5G. Connecting fast moving fleets in harsh signal environments is a key part of our Edge, Telemetry and Control strategy, coupled with our capabilities and long term vision around electrification and Virtual Product Design.

“From consuming 4K content to watching live events, interacting with friends in real time via high-definition video streaming and enabling onboard Internet of Things, McLaren Applied is delivering improved bandwidth to drive a seamless passenger experience and real time asset performance optimisation in public transport.”

Adding 5G-speed WiFi will give passengers super-fast internet to enable them to work while on the move with better access to email, smoother video conferencing and the ability to stream live content.

Vodafone UK’s chief technology officer Scott Petty said: “We’re pleased to be the connectivity partner working with Virgin Trains and McLaren Applied in this first trial of 5G Wi-Fi services on key transport routes. Earlier this year, we were the first to bring 5G services to Birmingham New Street station; and we believe 5G provides a huge opportunity for train operators to improve experiences for their customers – both those travelling for work and pleasure. Such trials are an important first step in achieving this.”

Visit Virgin Trains to find out more.

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