Xentrans, a consultancy for connectivity on mass transit and public safety vehicles, has announced the launch of an all-4G wireless communications system by the Santa Clara Transportation Authority (VTA) for light rail trains and buses in Silicon Valley, California. The deployment is the world’s first to exclusively use a 4G cellular network for delivering high-speed connectivity across a transit agency’s rail and road vehicles for free passenger Wi-Fi and onboard systems communication. VTA maintains a fleet of 100 light rail vehicles and 425 buses that serves the city of San Jose and surrounding communities, and employs approximately 2,100 employees. Combined ridership on the bus and light rail systems was almost 42 million people in 2010, with an average of 135,000 passengers each weekday.
By the end of fall 2011, VTA expects to have installed Wi-Fi in all trains and buses, using the 4G network as backhaul. This is a significant achievement for Northern California’s public transport system as many people who work in Silicon Valley and commute, or people who go to Silicon Valley for meetings, need Wi-Fi to check email, upload and download documents, view websites, etc.
“We are continually looking for ways to enhance our customers’ travel experience. For years, free Wi-Fi has been the most requested amenity to make public transit a more appealing option to non-riders, as well as with our loyal customer base,” said Gary Miskell, VTA Chief Information Officer. “The advent of higher capacity 4G networks in the San Francisco Bay Area means that we can deliver Wi-Fi hotspots on our fleet, and in working with Xentrans, VTA has implemented a next-generation communications solution that fully benefits from the technical advances made possible by 4G.” VTA plans to secure corporate sponsorship to underwrite the costs; the onboard Wi-Fi system is capable of delivering advertising, conducting passenger surveys and collecting usage statistics.
Vehicles are equipped with a ruggedized mobile cellular router delivering wireless Internet connectivity over the Clearwire 4G network with an average download speed of over 6 Mbps at 55 MPH. “The VTA roll-out of 4G for trains and buses is a real landmark in the mass transit industry,” said Jim Baker, founder and CEO at Xentrans. “As demand increases for content-rich, real-time data communication to vehicles, so cellular networks must support significantly higher speeds and lower latency; we’ve shown that 4G delivers on both. We’re delighted to have designed and project managed this ground-breaking initiative.”
“What better place to launch the world’s first all-4G wireless system for mass transit than Silicon Valley, the heart of the high tech industry,” said Graham Wilde, CEO at BWCS, a transportation strategy company, and producer of the Train Communications Systems conference in London that coincides with the Xentrans announcement. “With the proliferation of Wi-Fi enabled portable devices such as smartphones and tablets, free on-board Wi-Fi is rapidly becoming expected by rail and bus passengers, especially on commuter routes such as those operated by VTA. But the robust, end-to-end IP connectivity offered by 4G facilitates additional applications including CCTV, passenger information systems (PIS), digital signage and infotainment. With this pioneering deployment, Xentrans has demonstrated how 4G is shaping the way transit operators can plan their communication networks in the future.”