UK Wireless Infrastructure Strategy Addresses Mobile Coverage for Rail

On 11 April, the UK government published its latest Wireless Infrastructure Strategy, which includes a focus on delivering digital infrastructure to improve mobile coverage for rail.

Mobile Coverage Rail
The government states that connectivity for passengers on the railways is currently unsatisfactory

The strategy recognises that mobile coverage on the rail network is currently unreliable, preventing passengers from consistently being able to work online, access the internet or make calls.

This is partly because railway lines often run through cuttings and tunnels, preventing signals from masts outside of the corridor from reaching the trains.

Trackside infrastructure is therefore required to provide a consistent signal, but this is more costly and its installation requires the railway line to be closed.

Despite these barriers, the Department for Transport (DfT) is working to improve digital connectivity on rail routes. For example, it is supporting MerseyRail’s installation of dedicated trackside Wi-Fi infrastructure in Liverpool, as well as Network Rail’s ‘Project Reach’, which seeks private-sector investment to deliver high-fibre count cables and neutral host infrastructure on key railway routes.

The government said it also welcomed the work of Evo-rail, which has developed ‘rail-5G’ as the first multi-gigabit internet product to improve connectivity on trains.

Furthermore, to ensure continued development in this area, the government wants Ofcom to report annually on the availability of mobile coverage on mainline rail routes and has thus asked the communications regulator to present the cost and feasibility of obtaining such data.

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