Lifestyle services: staying connected whilst in the metro

photo internet connectivity in underground rail systems

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The expectations of today’s travellers are ever more demanding: urbanites are a mobile and hyper-connected community. With the evolution from conventional mobile phones to smart devices (phone, tablets, etc.), people expect uninterrupted and fast broadband connection wherever they are even when travelling in underground metros.

Internet connectivity is thus becoming a subject of paramount importance for the attractiveness and competitiveness of metros.

In the last decade, mobile phone communication platforms and signal in metros have seen rapid growth. The development of this service and absence of comprehensive research triggered UITP to conduct a study ‘Internet Connectivity in Underground Rail Systems,’ in partnership with the New Cities Foundation, an independent non-profit organisation dedicated to making cities across the world more inclusive, dynamic and creative. The study is based on feedback from 48 metros representing more than half of the world’s metros in terms of patronage and network length.

According to the results of the research, 77% of the metro systems surveyed provide some level of internet access in their underground installations, either in stations (73%) or on-board metro trains (58%).

In the future, 68% of metros are planning to expand broadband connectivity over their existing stations in the next 1-3 years, while only 5% do not. Over the past years, Wi-Fi has been quite popular as a channel for connectivity in 51% of metros (and will continue to grow up to 72%), as it can provide free internet access for users in a given geographic space. Currently, only 17% of metros charge their passengers for the use of Wi-Fi, and in the next 1-3 years this number should decrease to just 4%.

The dominant business model for the investment and installation of broadband connectivity in metro infrastructure is driven by telecoms investors, at least for mobile communication coverage. This model is expected to remain stable in the next few years.

This study provides evidence-based demonstration that a majority of metros already provide internet connectivity to their customers, at least in stations and that their efforts to expand broadband connectivity will continue. However these efforts will primarily and more certainly focus on station coverage rather than in tunnels. The coming months and years will mark a shift towards the latest technologies.

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