Worlds First Wireless Broadband Internet On A High-Speed Train

A stable Wi-Fi broadband internet connection via satellite was successfully tested aboard a high-speed train – the Paris-Brussels route operated by Thalys. The record bandwidth attained was 4 Mbit/s downstream and 2 upstream at 300 km/h, comparable to the quality of an ADSL+ (asymmetric digital subscriber line plus) connection, a faster variant of DSL. This test was made possible with support from ESA (European Space Agency) and was implemented by the Anglo-Belgian operator 21Net with Siemens as technology partner. Siemens integrated the wireless broadband Wi-Fi network in the passenger cars and provided the complete management system including authentication and billing.

The new satellite link on the Thalys high-speed train offers business people, train personnel and private travelers a fast and stable opportunity to surf the internet while traveling at more than 300 km/h. The link between the train and satellite has a bandwidth of a maximum of 4 Mbit/s downstream and 2 upstream, comparable to the quality of an ADSL+ connection – an ADSL technology which effectively doubles the downstream bandwidth available for services – and offers numerous business and entertainment applications. Thalys has hereby set a new record.

21Net got the order from Thalys to implement the test installation. 21Net chose Siemens as its partner for integrating a wireless broadband Wi-Fi network in the passenger cars. Siemens used the Garderos operational support system for authentication and billing and operates the system on behalf of 21Net.

The pilot project will run for a period of three months on one train only. If proven successful, Thalys will equip its entire fleet of 28 trains running on the Brussels-Paris route with super fast internet.

The principle behind the solution is technologically complex but extremely user friendly at the same time. When paying for a seat, each passenger receives a password and ID for logging on to the wireless broadband interconnection. As soon as the passenger logs on, the authentication information is sent to the central Network Operations Center (NOC) of Siemens Belgium via satellite.

The NOC houses the Network Management Center where Siemens manages the authentication of users for 21Net and assimilates the time-based billing data. To this end Siemens collaborates with Garderos, a German company that makes WLAN infrastructure software for operational support systems. What is more, the center manages all components on the train remotely. The first-line helpdesk for users is operated by 21Net. Siemens staffs the system helpdesk that intervenes at network level.

An additional benefit to 21Net was the railway expertise of the Siemens “Energy Industry Transport” department in Belgium that designed the special racks for the servers and configuration components. The racks meet specific requirements imposed by the relevant railway networks, are vibration proof and are protected against electrical overvoltage. Ergonomically, they occupy only the smallest space.

“Siemens’ knowledge of the railway sector combined with proven know-how of mobile data transmission was decisive in this project”, said Christoph Caselitz, President of Mobile Networks at Siemens Communications. “Siemens has hereby reconfirmed its role as network integrator as well as its local role as competence center for mobile data.”


UK-based 21Net was created in 2001 to leverage advanced satellite technology to deliver broadband Internet to trains. Founded by business and high-tech industry veterans Henry Hyde-Thomson, James Rolfe, Douglas Dundonald and Jean-François de Lantsheere 21Net is under contract to the European Space Agency as well as receiving support from Venture Capital


Thalys International, based in Brussels, is a joint venture between SNCB, the National Railway Company of Belgium, the Grandes Lignes International s.A., a subsidiary of the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF) as well as NS and Deutsche Bahn, the German railwas company. The high-speed train Thalys connects the countries France, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands.

For more information see HERE

Siemens Communications

Siemens Communications is one of the largest players in the global telecommunications industry. Siemens is the only provider in the market that offers its customers a full-range portfolio, from devices for end users to complex network infrastructures for enterprises and carriers as well as related services. Siemens Communications is the world’s innovation leader in convergent technologies, products and services for wireless, fixed and enterprise networks. It is the largest Group within Siemens and operates in more than 160 countries around the world. In fiscal 2004 (year-end September 30), its 60,000-strong workforce posted sales of approximately 18 billion euros.

More about Siemens Communications HERE


Garderos makes WLAN infrastructure software for operational support systems. The hardware-independent architecture has been designed according to the needs of enterprises and service providers to securely create and deliver WLAN services. The Garderos software responds to technical challenges like mobile subscriber authentication (EAP-SIM) and WiMAX, thereby protecting investments. Garderos’ software has been deployed by well-known customers such as T-Com, T-Mobile, Vodafone as well as large enterprises and hospitals.

For more information on Garderos, click HERE

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