Blogging at 300 KM/H

No, the title of this post isn’t a reference to the velocity of our Kerouacian prose — it’s what you could be doing if you took a train between Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne:


 The first commercial application of the European Space Agency (ESA) “Broadband on Trains” initiative officially launched May 14 on six high-speed Thalys trains… Passengers on the trains equipped with “Thalysnet” have continuous Internet connectivity while traveling at 300 km/h via a satellite 36,000 km above the trains.

The satellite link uses a low profile tracking antenna on the train to provide a two-way connection to the Ku-band satellite system and a hub station connected to the Internet backbone. Terrestrial wireless is used to maintain a connection when the train is traveling through tunnels. The total bandwidth from the satellite shared among users on the train is 2 Mbps down and 512 Kbps up. Bandwidth across all trains in the fleet is allocated on demand according to the usage level.

The tracking antenna truly is low-profile. If a train passes you at high speed, you’d be hard pressed to see the little nub whizzing by you:


The ESA initiative to bring broadband to trains started nearly two and a half years ago; as of May of this year, Thalysnet is officially and commercially available to train passengers

Thalysnet… was developed by a consortium lead by Nokia Siemens Networks, which combines satellite communications with conventional wireless data technologies to provide a continuous Internet connection on board trains travelling across national borders at 300 km/h. One of the companies in the consortium is the UK-based 21Net, which carried out a pilot project in 2005 under the European Space Agency’s Broadband to Trains initiative.

21Net worked with leading railway operators such as RENFE (Spain) and SNCF (France), along with Thalys, to develop a solution combining bi-directional satellite communications with terrestrial wireless technologies.

With soaring gas prices leading to an increase in public transport usage here in the US, could an American equivalent of Thalysnet be far behind?