Virgin Trains will launch West Coast Mainline wi-fi in 2007

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Trials of wi-fi Internet access aboard trains have already happened, and now Virgin Trains has announced its preferred bidder for rolling out Wi-fi internet services along the West Coast Mainline sometime in 2007.

It will enable commuters, assuming they pay enough for the privilege, to have uninterrupted access to the Internet, thanks to a series of trackside wireless base stations located every few miles and promising a continuous, seamless connection. Even tunnels aren’t a problem with this technology, based on the same WiMax system that’s starting to link up whole towns like Milton Keynes.

It seems to be aimed mainly at business customers, and it’s not clear at present how much it will cost or whether it’s pay-as-you-go or subscription based.

It will be interesting to see how this competes on price and quality with the increasing use of mobile phones and mobile data cards used to connect to the net whilst on the move. Will it take more than a few tunnels to sway the decision? After all, if you’ve already got a mobile Internet contract on your phone, why pay extra for Virgin’s service?

Andy Merrett