It seems as though everywhere has internet access these days, from restaurants and hotels, to cafes and bars even the base camp at Mount Everest has Wi-Fi access. Given the amount of public places that now have Wi-Fi access available, it’s surprising how far behind public transport is lagging. However that looks set to change in the near future, with many people now demanding Wi-Fi access on transport – so you could soon be browsing the net whilst shoulder to shoulder on the Northern line.
There was a time when Wi-Fi was seen as a luxury but nowadays, it’s increasingly being seen as a necessity. With an ever-increasing number of people being encouraged to carry out work outside of the office, especially taking into account the new flexible working hours law that has just been passed, then it’s easy to see why so many people now want internet access to be available on public transport.
Virgin Media is one of the companies looking to push internet access in public places, already supplying access at many tube stations.
Why the hold up?
The two biggest reasons as to why Wi-Fi access isn’t widely available on public transport yet are a) technical limitations and b) implementation costs. Because buses and trains are constantly in motion it makes it difficult to provide a reliable signal. Travelling over bridges and past large buildings also adds to this difficulty. However as 4G becomes more prevalent, it means that connection speeds will be much faster and more reliable, making internet access on public transport a much more likely possibility.
The other big obstacle to Wi-Fi access on public transport is cost. Although the cost of installing Wi-Fi on buses and trains has reduced significantly in recent years, it’s still a costly procedure and a lot of transport agencies have yet to be convinced that it’s worth the expense. For example the cost for installing Wi-Fi on a three-car train is approximately £15,000. When you take this into account it’s easy to see why transit companies have been hesitant up to now.
One way of making the cost of installing Wi-Fi financially viable for transit companies is to implement advertising venue programs. Essentially riders would be offered free Wi-Fi in exchange for watching ads. According to a survey carried out by Devicescape, 68% of passengers would be prepared to watch ads in exchange for Wi-Fi access on public transport.
In spite of these technical and financial roadblocks, the amount of internet access available on public transport systems is set to increase steadily over the next few years, as technology advances further and governments embrace the idea of using it on buses and trains. Having Wi-Fi access available on public transport has been shown to increase ridership significantly, which will certainly encourage transit companies to adopt it in the bid to get a competitive edge.