Internet Access on Public Transport

One way to persuade people to use public transport rather than their cars is to make the public transport environment nicer; one way to do that is to provide internet access.
There are lots of examples of public transport operators doing this – usually by deploying a WiFi hotspot on the bus or train, and back-hauling to the internet via the public mobile network (or occasionally, via satellite). The advent of better mobile network bearers such as HSDPA has made this easier and improved the quality of service.
There are some smart ways of doing this too. One company that I interviewed, Icomera, seems to be behind many of the UK bus and train deployments. Its on-bus equipment includes multiple SIM cards so that the on-bus users receive the sum of operators’ coverage, and some clever software that buffers data so that the users don’t notice intermittent coverage holes.
There is some nice market research by Accent which shows that the availability of WiFi on buses and trains does indeed influence user choices. Some 10% of WiFi users said they’d made more journeys by bus and train (rather than car and plane) because WiFi was available. 14% of the total sample who said they would be making one or more extra journeys in the next six months as a result of WiFi roll-out were asked if any of these extra journeys would otherwise have been made by plane or car:
  • 51% said that they would not
  • 22% said that they may otherwise have been made by plane
  • 19% said that they may otherwise have been made by car
  • 15% did not state whether there would be any shift

Thanks to Accent for letting me re-publish some of its data.

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