China's high-speed trains will soon receive wi-fi

After a two year wait, a wi-fi network is finally set to be installed on the mainland's high-speed trains

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 January, 2014, 5:35pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 January, 2014, 5:43pm

Passengers on the mainland's high-speed train network will soon be able to enjoy wi-fi access on their journeys, thanks to a network built by Chinese technology company Feitian. 

"Providing high-speed mobile wi-fi access on trains necessitates specific technical requirements that are very different from accessing wi-fi in a home or office environment," Feitian research and development head Duan Shiping said in a Sina Technology interview.

"[Feitian's] high-speed train wi-fi system will provide passengers with a wealth of information and entertainment applications, but it will also give the train management staff a platform for communication and supervision." 

In order to implement wi-fi, Duan said that Feitian had to meet signaling requirements and ensure that access to the mainland's largest wireless communication network providers - China Mobile, China Telecom and Cina Unicom - was viable along the high-speed rail's routes. 

"Feitian [has been collaborating with] Southwest Jiaotong University and the railway departments [to] test the wi-fi system for one year now," Duan said, adding that the system would be finalised and implemented at a later date after receiving official government approval.  

Currently, passengers on all mainland trains are only able to access the internet via 3G and 4G networks on mobile phones, although connection may be spotty depending on the train's location and speed.

Local reports have not indicated whether the upcoming wi-fi system will also be installed in China's non-high-speed trains.

Sina Technology netizens had a mixed reaction to the news, and many pointed out that talk of a high-speed railway wi-fi network had begun as early as 2011.

"[At this point], I'd rather just have a place to charge my phone on board the train," one commentator wrote. "A socket in each seat."

Others said that there was no indication the wi-fi network would be free of charge, and many expressed disappointment that it would likely be implemented after the beginning of Lunar New Year on January 30 - a time when massive-scale travel traditionally occurs in China as city workers return to the countryside to spend time with family.

In the greater China region, services for in-train wi-fi currently exist for Taiwan's High Speed Rail as well as Hong Kong's Airport Express.