Amtrak Soliciting Bids To Build Trackside Wi-Fi Network With Broadband Speeds

In this day and age of creature comforts and ubiquitous access to the Internet, the simple act of riding on a high-speed train is not enough to keep passengers content, nor is slow Wi-Fi while traveling the tracks across the country. Ah, but rest assured that Amtrak has a plan to improve its crummy Wi-Fi service, so if you'd rather scroll through your Facebook feed than take in the sights of the land, you'll be able to do so.

Hey, we're not downing Internet connectivity, and there are legitimate reasons outside of social media why high-speed wireless access on an Amtrak train is desirable, especially if you're on the job and need to download an important batch of files. The problem is that Amtrak's Wi-Fi doesn't have a stellar reputation. As currently implemented, the company's trains pull Internet connections from cell towers, which are often crowded and can fade as the train speeds further away.

Amtrak Train
Image Source: Flickr (John Pastor)

To combat this, Amtrak wants to build a wireless trackside network that would provide high-capacity broadband through the duration of its trip. This would eliminate existing gaps in coverage and ensure a consistent Wi-Fi experience. At present, Amtrak is soliciting bids for the proof-of-concept project.

"We know that our customers want a consistently reliable and fast on-board Wi-Fi experience – something we cannot guarantee today on our busiest trains when hundreds of customers want to go online at the same time – and we want to make that possible," said Amtrak Chief Marketing and Sales Officer, Matt Hardison.

Amtrak's goal is to increase the available bandwidth per train from 10Mbps to at least 25Mbps with the option to scale as technology advances. When and if Amtrak can get this done, it would drop current restrictions on streaming media and large file downloads.