IPSOS Passenger research suggests 41 % of adults and 64% of young people would be more likely to consider taking the train over other modes of transport if train companies provided fast, reliable on-board Wi-Fi.
Computer Weekly reports that for business travellers, this figure rises to 79%.
With increasing demand for ultra-high-definition streaming internet video, it makes sense to move content closer to the end user where front-haul capacity is generally more abundant.
The problem, according to Vancouver-based Netskrt Systems, is that traditional Content Delivery Networks don’t reach far enough, preventing them from serving locations with constrained bandwidth and statistically small user populations.
For example, rail and air passengers traditionally have minimal, if any, access to the streaming content they want to watch. This is where Netskrt eCDN comes in.
With advanced cloud analytics and edge caching positioned at the “absolute edge,” the Netskrt eCDN allows users to leverage existing internet video subscriptions “at speeds faster than they get at home.”
Currently, however, most rail operators “struggle to meet customer Wi-Fi expectations” onboard trains that are traveling through the countryside at high speed and lose cellular coverage in remote areas and tunnels.
In a bid to address this issue, Netskrt announced this week a partnership with Boldyn Networks, a designer, builder, and operator of shared communications infrastructure.
The two companies revealed that they will work together to enhance rail passengers’ onboard Wi-Fi experience, including offering them on-demand and live video streaming services.
Boldyn, formerly known as BAI Communications, will integrate Netskrt’s eCDN for Rail solution, which deploys content delivery intelligence in the cloud and video caches on each train, with their own connected transport solution to give rail operators an easy-to-deploy product.
This will connect travellers across Europe and North American, according to a statement from the firms.
“At BAI, we are continuously advancing our connected transport solution with the latest industry innovations to provide secure, high speed cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity onboard trains, above and below ground, meeting customers’ evolving expectations for work and entertainment content access,” stated Brendan O’Reilly, Group CTO at BAI Communications. “Together we offer rail operators an easy path to enhancing their customer’s journey with on demand and live streaming video services.”
Netskrt notes that streaming video places higher demand on limited internet bandwidth, and many operators have resorted to either severely rate limiting or not allowing access to streaming services over their Wi-Fi to protect connectivity for other applications, such as email and web browsing.
Consumers today expect high-quality Wi-Fi, however.
“We are excited to be working with BAI to enhance rail passengers’ onboard digital experience,” said Siegfried Luft, CEO and co-founder of Netskrt. “By adding our edge caching solution to BAI’s leading connected train solution, railway operators can ensure their WiFi supports the increasingly demanding customer desire to watch video streaming as they travel.”
One clever aspect of the Netskrt eCDN system is that it proactively stores on-demand content in the onboard software cache. When customers select popular content, it’s already onboard and instantly streams to their individual devices.
And no matter how many passengers choose to watch that content, each title is only streamed to the onboard cache once, reducing use of limited internet access bandwidth.
Last year, British train operating company London North Eastern Railway announced a United Kingdoms first: an edgecasting proof-of-concept trial that enabled people to stream thousands of shows from ITV Hub in ultra high-definition without eating into personal data or the train’s bandwidth.
Netskrt was founded in 2017 by Lars Cavi and Siegfried Luft.
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