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Wi-Fi coming to Japan's bullet-trains

200mph internet – but not until 2009

British commuters might be used to waiting quite a while for a service to arrive but that's not usually the case with Japan's famously reliable Shinkansen 'bullet trains'. However, the operator's plans to install a Wi-Fi service for passengers aren't going to be realised until 2009.

Central Japan Railway (JR Tokai), which operates the Shinkansen service between Tokyo and the western Japanese city of Osaka, said that it plans to offer wireless-internet service throughout all cars of its new N700-series trains from early 2009.

A general upgrade of the communications system for the trains will enable the service, which will be supplied to the train through a leaky coaxial cable that runs alongside the train tracks. A similar analogue system is already in operation providing basic communications and a radio channel that is rebroadcast in the train, but the new system will be digital and carry internet traffic.

Few details of the internet service have been worked out, except that it will be delivered to passengers through wireless LAN base stations located in each car of the train. A service provider has yet to be selected and no decision has been made on whether the service will be offered at no charge, a JR Tokai spokesman said.

The communication system upgrade will bring other benefits. Also new will be an internal mobile phone service that allows the train's driver and guard to speak to each other at any time and also allows for three-way calls with other such as train company officials or station controllers in the event of a problem or emergency.


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