More Wi-Fi in trains, this time in Australia

Wi-Fi on public transport is such a hot topic these days and there isn’t a railway operator in the world that is not deploying or actively looking into installing Wi-Fi on their trains. Now, Railcorp, a state-owned enterprise in Australia that runs the passenger rail service covering Sydney, its suburbs, the Central Coast, Hunter, the Blue Mountains, Central and South Coasts, has announced that there will be free Wi-Fi at Sydney’s Circular Quay station. This is only a trial service which begins in September of this year and runs until November. But its purpose is to get information about the use of the network and prepare for a public tender that will lead to the installation of Wi-Fi in all trains.

To give you some idea of the scale of this railway network, RailCorp says: “An average of one million trips is made to and from 307 stations each weekday.” They have a fleet of over 1500 carriages traveling through 1,595 km of mainline track, across 888 bridges, through 46 km of tunnels.

Free Wi-Fi in Sydney Harbour

Since Sydney Harbour has a large amount of ferry traffic, some ferry operators have begun installing Wi-Fi. So there is free Wi-Fi service on the ferries between Circular Quay and Manly but it is limited to 30 minutes (about the time to get to Manly from Circular Quay). You have to pay if you want to use it for a longer time. I used the ferry from Circular Quay to get to the beaches at Manly but did not use Wi-Fi because I was not carrying my iPhone or laptop. I was carrying instead a beach bag with towels, bathing suit, swimming goggles and sunscreen.

The horrible state of wired and wireless broadband in Australia

When I was in Sydney last February, I noticed how little Wi-Fi (free or paid) there is in the city. People explained to me that the incumbent ISP, Telstra, imposes data caps that make sharing one’s Wi-Fi connection disadvantageous. Tech entrepreneurs also complained about the high cost of Internet service.

Because of growing pressure to do something about Australia’s aging broadband infrastructure and the high cost of Internet service, the Australian government announced a national broadband plan, which Telstra initially opposed. This week the government reached a deal with Telstra to allow NBN Co., the state-owned broadband operator in charge of the national broadband plan, to use Telstra’s network. This deal will speed up the broadband rollout and lower the total cost of deployment. The government will pay Telstra A$11 billion over several years for the use of the network.

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