Information published on 1 February 2012 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 276.

Canada: the world’s fastest WiFi on rails

  • North America
  • News from UIC members

Feeling connected for work or leisure has become an essential part of everyone’s life, which is why one of the best features of VIA train travel experience (aside from the comfort, safety, and of course, the views) is the internet access. In January 2011, the Canadian Railways VIA Rail introduced a new state of the art WiFi system onto its first train within the Quebec City – Windsor corridor, replacing its first generation (originally installed in 2006). Since then, all train sets running in the Corridor have been equipped with WiFi and are successfully keeping passengers connected through their trips. So what makes VIA’s WiFi the “fastest on rails”? Two factors contribute to this success: the system and the providers. Concerning the system, one of the front-most cars of each train set (otherwise known as the “brain car”) carries not one or two, but eight antennas on its roof. More receptors mean more “hit” points, which translates into less dropped signals and faster downloads. If the signal is weak around one antenna, chances are it will be strong around one of the other seven. Each other car in the set is then connected to the “brain car” via a high speed inter-carriage link or ICL, which means a strong connection from the front to the back of the train, for all passengers, in every car. Concerning the providers, a big part of VIA Rail’s success is the fact that there are three great wireless providers that service the Quebec City-Windsor corridor. Instead of depending on any single provider, VIA aggregates all three. The WiFi system is constantly scanning the signals and choosing the strongest ones in any given area. In this way, there are virtually no “black holes” (areas with no internet signal) along the route.

(Source: VIA Rail)