What About Current Works on Internet on Board in France?
As presented in Chap.2, SNCF, the French National Railway Operator, performed many tests to provide Internet on board HST [38-40]. Measurements and experiments were performed with Wi-Fi technologies and the “BoxTGV”, relying on satellite technology, was also launched on the TGV-Est line, but stopped for profitability reasons.
Currently, SNCF launched a call for tenders in order to:
- • Expand the coverage of 4G cellular networks along the railway tracks. This one concerns then the mobile network operators. The main Telecom operators have then been assigned for the increase of 4G coverage along the lines;
- • Develop a solution to provide an Internet access on board HST, relying on Wi-Fi deployed in the carriages and connection provided by cellular networks.
The Wi-Fi relying on 4G networks is then planned in HST for 2017. Initially and to our knowledge, requirements in terms of throughput are to reach 15 Mbps and evolve to 25 Mbps. At the same time, the french frequency regulator, ARCEP, fixed its major strategic objectives in terms of 4G coverage for trains for the coming years. Thus, a 4G coverage of 60 % of regional trains is planned by 2020, 80 % by 2027 and 90 % by 2030. This timeline is linked to the allocation procedure of the new 700MHz band for 4G, which will be spread out from 2016 to 2019.
Discussions and decisions are still on going on the call for tenders presented above. The connection between train and ground could be eventually provided only by a direct connection of passengers via their terminal (smartphone, tablet) to the 3G/4G cellular public networks on the majority of the lines. The French railway operator intends to push MNOs in order to improve the cellular coverage of the railway tracks.
Thereby, French railway operator opted for a solution relying on public cellular networks, like many other railway operators. Indeed, it represents a first reasonably cheap solution to ensure connection on board trains. However, limitations in terms of capacity and throughput are still an issue and other solutions could be developed to allow broadband links and ensure all the possible applications presented in Chaps. 1 and 2.