Thalys, the European high speed train operator, has selected a consortium to provide wireless broadband Internet access to passengers traveling between Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne by 2008. It will be the first international high speed train to provide this service across European borders.
Thalys has selected a consortium consisting of Nokia Siemens Networks, 21NET, the European supplier of broadband Internet based on satellite connectivity, and the Belgian broadband cable operator Telenet to become the first international high speed railway company to deliver true broadband Internet access to its passengers. The consortium will combine satellite, GPRS and UMTS technologies with wireless networks similar to WiFi Hotspots to provide a continuous Internet connection on board trains traveling across the borders at the speed of 300 km/h.
As part of the initial pilot stage starting this month, some Thalys trains will be equipped with this technology combining a bi-directional satellite-based Internet access with a network of access points available in every Comfort 1 and Comfort 2 carriage. A continuous seamless switchover from GPRS/UMTS to the satellite connectivity will also be implemented in order to maintain Internet access while trains are running through covered areas, such as stations or tunnels. The first Thalys trains equipped with this WiFi innovative technology will run commercially from Autumn 2007.
This system will allow passengers to experience true Internet broadband connectivity, with high uplink and downlink data rates, and uninterrupted access while traveling at 300 km/h. The service will be similar to Internet access delivered in Internet hotspots available in a hotels, bars, airports and train stations.
In addition to Internet access, Thalys will also offer to its passengers information on travel destinations and connecting trains as well as entertainment services. This Broadband Internet service will be provided under the name “ThalysNet”.
Under the terms of a managed services contract, the consortium will supply and install the technology, provide ongoing network operation and take over the maintenance of the network components. It will capitalize upon the complementary partnership between the three companies:
Nokia Siemens Networks is responsible for the entire project management and will supply and install the necessary technology, provide ongoing network operation and take over maintenance of the network components: the on board WLAN solution with connectivity to the network, the management of special leased bandwidth for mobile operators along the train routes, antennas in the train for radio contact.
21Net implements and manages the bi-directional satellite connectivity; the satellite link will be established from a small earth station installed on the train roof, providing true broadband Internet to passengers.
Telenet will operate the commercial Internet services and will offer through its portal rich multimedia content, such as gaming and in a later stage video on demand. Telenet will also provide customer support and will implement roaming agreements to deliver this service to international Thalys travelers.