[January 12, 2004]
CLIC TGV BRINGS WIFI ONBOARD FRANCE’S HIGH SPEED TRAINSThe new Clic TGV service from SNCF, France’s national railway, enables high speed train passengers to access a range of information and entertainment programs broadcast on a WiFi network during their trip. WiFi (Wireless Fidelity) is the commercial name of wireless data transmission network technology. In mid-November 2003, Clic TGV started a six-month experimental phase on TGV's on the Paris–Bordeaux–Pau line. Passengers can choose between general information, weather reports, and the news as well as TGV information, train timetables, station plans, and tourist information on regions traveled through. They can also watch films and play interactive games. In addition, Clic TGV enables e-mails to be received or sent via access to personal messaging.
The experimental phase will test how well WiFi operates onboard travelling at nearly 190 mi./h, and will verify the connection between the central and onboard servers. Depending on the results of a customer survey, Clic TGV may be extended to other lines. WiFi-equipped personal computers will be available for rent from stations at the Cinétrain booth (€8 to rent a portable computer equipped with WiFi and headphones, €3 for headphones alone). For passengers with a portable computer equipped with WiFi and headphones, the Clic TGV service is free of charge. An access code enables connection to the service.
The architecture chosen for Clic TGV and other forthcoming applications is based on WiFi technology (or RLAN), to which are connected peripherals to access the services desired. The Clic TGV portal, located on an onboard server, provides the interface between the peripherals and the services. This server hosts routing functions to the Internet and SNCF intranet networks, interconnection and system administration functions. The onboard server is linked to a central server that monitors the synchronization of mobile servers and serves to concentrate dynamic information. The onboard radio network must meet various requirements such as those concerning performance, availability, service quality, security, and upgradeability.
During the experimental phase, fifteen TGV trains are equipped with the following technical elements: a charge conservation inverter, a radio bridge and access point in railcars, a central cabinet housing GSM/GPRS and GPS interfaces, the Clic TGV portal, a Web server, software (operating system and applications), the GSM/GPRS modems, a radio hub; a joint GPS/GPRS antenna on the roof, and accessories connecting all equipment. This equipment already enables equipped TGV's to use national operators' GSM networks to exchange data with the outside world.
The Clic TGV experiment is a first phase in defining an onboard network of radio data transmission. In the future, various solutions will be examined to increase the connection speed, exploit groupings of GPRS links to optimize the use of this standard, develop the capacities of equipped TGV's to connect to different wireless networks that may be crossed during the voyage, and develop satellite links.