Impression of Tyne & Wear Metro Stadler train at Haymarket

UK: Tyne & Wear Metro operator Nexus has chosen to eliminate mobile phone connectivity ‘not spots’ instead of deploying on-train wi-fi as previously planned.

‘Research with customers shows that people now value a good connection for their phone, using their own data, rather than wanting to log in to a wi-fi service provided by a train operator, particularly when most people travel on Metro for only a short period’, explained Customer Services Director Huw Lewis on February 24.

‘This is not surprising because data is cheap and the signal from masts in and around railways is much stronger than it was a few years ago — in fact research a few years ago by comparable operators showed as few as 4% to 5% of customers choose to use on-train wi-fi.’

Lewis said ‘on-train wi-fi is expensive to provide and maintain, and itself relies on local masts for connectivity, and we now feel it offers little benefit to customers compared to the high cost of building then maintaining a bespoke system’.

Nexus is therefore engaging with commercial mobile network operators to provide 4G or 5G connectivity when the signal is currently weak, including in tunnels and cuttings and near the North Sea coast.

Mobile provider EE has offered 4G connectivity in the Metro tunnels under central Newcastle and Gateshead since 2019, but plans to add other networks were delayed by the pandemic.