Amtrak looking to upgrade on-train wireless networks to broadband speeds

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Amtrak wi-fiIf you’re like me and many other people who work in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S., you spend a decent amount of time on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC). When Amtrak added free WiFi to its trains, it was a godsend for productivity (and just plain ol’ internet fun). The speeds, though? Not so hot. (Kind of the like the Northeast Regional trains…)

This morning came the welcome news that Amtrak is “exploring options” to upgrade its onboard wireless network to broadband. The company would like to construct a “dedicated, wireless trackside network that provides a high-capacity, broadband-speed Internet connection between Washington and Boston.” Available bandwidth per train would jump from 10Mbps to “a minimum of” 25Mbps, and supposedly would scale to faster speeds as they become available. The new network would also close existing gaps in service along the corridor. Streaming media and large file downloads would perform much better if the plan comes to fruition. From the press release:

“We know that our customers want a consistently reliable and fast on-board Wi-Fi experience – something we cannot guarantee today on our busiest trains when hundreds of customers want to go online at the same time – and we want to make that possible,” said Amtrak Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Matt Hardison.

Amtrak is currently soliciting bids for a proof-of-concept project, results of which will be used to determine “whether it is technically and financially feasible to construct such a network along the entire 457-mile NEC.”

No word on when all of this might happen.

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