BROADBAND internet access is to be provided on trains between London and Brighton under an agreement between train operator Southern and T-Mobile.

One three-car Class 377 Electrostar EMU has been equipped so far, and broadband is initially being offered on six trains each way per day. The technology will be rolled out across 14 trainsets in the first phase. Installation takes around 30 man-hours per unit, and does not impact on availability.

Nomad Digital is supplying Wimax hardware developed in Canada. Around 60 base stations will be located along the 82 km route to ensure high-quality coverage, although continuous connectivity is already available with 35 sites. A single roof-mounted antenna on each unit connects with an on-train server and WLAN.

T-Mobile is marketing the facility as part of its world-wide HotSpot network. Free access is being provided in both First and Standard class during the start-up phase, but charges will apply from June. Download speeds of up to 1MBit/sec are anticipated.

It is being promoted by window stickers and crew announcements. T-Mobile project leader Jay Saw said that take-up since the first unit rolled out on April 1 has been ahead of expectations. Ppassenger power sockets are to be fitted to the three-car Electrostars by Bombardier later this year.

Southern Managing Director Charles Horton expects wi-fi to prove popular with business commuters, offering a further argument for using rail instead of car. A phased roll-out to other Southern routes could follow.