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mmWave WiFi rolls out on UK railways

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty


The subsidiary of the First Group is using 60GHz mmWave equipment from Blu Wireless Technology in Bristol on self-powered masts alongside track in southern England. The system provides 1Gbit/s of bandwidth to a train at up to 300km/h, using a mesh network to link the masts or track-side fibre optics cable back to the core network.

The Rail-5G mmWave system replaces the current system based around multiple SIM cards that provides a total of 30Mbit/s to a train. The 1Gbit/s system was tested on a large scale pilot on the Isle of Wight and is now rolling out on 70km of suburban track, with plans for inter-city routes later in the year, as well as several European projects.

The self-powered pole for building high performance networks in the railway corridor. evo-rail integrates the most efficient solar cells with an integrated wind turbine and lithium battery in a single, lean pole that is operated by a unique power management system.

The self-powered rail-5G access point is a fully autonomous, high-end carrier grade wireless access point delivering Gigabit/s bandwidth. It can be coupled to an existing trackside fibre connection or meshed with adjacent access points and serves as a the fastest solution to provide extended area coverage.

“Unlike mobile systems, rail-5G benefits from being designed by railway experts specifically for the railways. The increased bandwidth will, for the first time, provide a significantly improved customer experience for passengers who will now be able to use high-definition video streaming, access office applications, participate in 3D gaming and browse at high speeds, just as they would at home – even when their train is in a tunnel,” said Simon Holmes, FirstGroup’s Head of Engineering Digital Communications and Managing Director of evo-rail.

Next: mmWave subsidiary in the US


Blu Wireless has also launched a US subsidiary to work with existing partners in key sectors across defence, public safety, transport, and smart cities. Blu Wireless Inc. will be headed up by Macy Summers, who was previously VP of Strategy and Chief Technology Officer at Lockheed Martin IS&GS Defence.

“The expansion into the US market is a key part of our business growth strategy,” explains Alan Jones, CEO, Blu Wireless. “In the last three years, the Company has strategically moved towards a business that offers turnkey system products, providing an innovative and vertically integrated solution. This platform has been deployed and commercially proven for rail applications; however, we see strong synergies with adjacent markets where we can leverage our capabilities as a business. With our unique differentiators, the Blu Wireless solution is ideally matched with the demanding needs of defence and public safety applications. The US in particular provides significant opportunities for Blu Wireless in these high value markets.”

“5G for the military and public safety is radically different from 5G for commercial consumer use,” said Summers. “Defence and public safety private networks require significantly more reliability and cannot afford a single point of failure. We want to help shape our customers’ thinking around the technology available to securely implement communication networks that support their combat, digital, cyber and space strategies.”

“Macy’s extensive experience and proven track record in these key business sectors for the Company will be invaluable as we look to progress US and International markets,” said Jones. “I am delighted that Macy has joined Blu Wireless at this exciting time for the Company.”

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