It is a great promise. In the future, Deutsche Bahn AG customers should be able to surf the Internet comfortably on the go, like at home – initially with free, fast and unlimited WiFi that travels seamlessly with them. There are still many problems and shortcomings in internet supply at stations and on trains that annoy passengers. However, there are now other improvements presented by DB Director Sabina Jeschke at Berlin Central Station.
In the future, commuters and business travelers will be able to travel more and more routes around the clock. All you have to do is log in once and the connection should work around the clock, at the train station, in the DB lounge, on the platform and on the train. Even on the way back, the smartphone automatically searches for the nearest WiFi DB network.
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According to its own account, the state-owned company is launching “Europe’s largest WiFi scrolling network”. With immediate effect, the technology should operate at around 100 stations throughout Germany, all DB lounges are already supplied with it, as well as the first 200 regional trains and buses. The ICE fleet has been offering free Wi-Fi since 2017.
The railway has invested 200 million euros
The offer is to be expanded. By the end of the year, 130 train stations will have free, unlimited and uninterrupted WiFi. The Intercity fleet will also acquire WIFI @ DB. Hundreds of regional trains and buses are to follow next year. According to its own information, the group has already invested approximately 200 million euros, including 3,800 access points and 230 kilometers of cables.
For seamless and fast internet connections, transport companies are dependent on mobile phone providers, which have long been slowly expanding their networks outside large cities. DB emphasizes that the most important prerequisite for stable surfing on the train is sufficient coverage by mobile phones along the railway lines. However, this is still missing today, not least because politics has not acted decisively for a long time.
The most important railway lines should not be supplied by mobile communications until the end of 2022 and then all railways until the end of 2024. The state now pays to close many dead spots in rural areas. The construction of transmission systems is to be financed with an amount of 1.1 billion euros, technical reconstruction in trains by another 150 million euros.
LTE networks are particularly problematic
The smooth reception of the Internet on trains is technically demanding, especially on trains which, like ICE, run at speeds of 300 and more. In order to receive mobile radio signals of stable quality, DB has already equipped a large part of the ICE fleet with IC amplifiers. If mobile reception is disrupted, train surfing on the train cannot work either.
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A particular problem has been identified by the fast LTE networks on railway lines and in nearby residential areas, which can interfere with the train radio between the driver and the control centers. In the last few years, mobile communications groups such as Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica have had to find solutions to resolve site-specific conflicts.
In the last few months, the ministers of railways and transport Andreas Scheuer have come under pressure from media reports that German stations, trains and buses are digitally under-supplied even in international comparisons. At the request of the FDP in the Bundestag, the federal government admitted that at that time only about 640 of the nearly 5,400 DB stations were equipped with a public WiFi network. In high-tech federal states such as Baden-Württemberg, only 3.6 percent of public Wi-Fi reception is at stations. So if you don’t have a mobile phone connection, you can’t even check online at most stops to see if the next train arrives on time.
Even on a train, surfing is not always stable and fast. There is no 4G / LTE reception on the 2040 kilometers of the German railway network, as announced by the Ministry of Transport in response to another FDP request. These are mostly little-traveled turnoffs in the country.