Improving Wi-Fi on Passenger Railways with Mobile Internet Routers


Like many public services, passenger rail was severely affected by the global pandemic. According to a McKinsey report, passenger numbers declined across the world by an average of seventy percent during the height of COVID-19. Transit authorities have had to make critical adjustments to help ridership return to pre-pandemic levels, from seating arrangements to additional services. One key is modernizing mobile Internet router technology to support secure, reliable passenger Wi-Fi.

Today, transit authorities can improve the customer experience and boost passenger preference for rail with next-generation mobile connectivity — not only to ensure riders can be connected and productive while commuting, but also to support the complete range of onboard connectivity needs.

In this article, we share some of the key trends and driving forces behind the need for improvements to passenger rail Wi-Fi systems, and how Digi can help you create a secure, convenient and reliable Wi-Fi experience.

Passengers Want Wi-Fi for Productivity and Entertainment

“If you want to lure young people onto trains — boost the Wi-Fi.” That is the consensus of a poll conducted by Evo-Rail of commuters in the UK. Forty one percent of adults would ride trains over other modes of transportation if rail companies provided fast, reliable Wi-Fi. For people younger than 25, that percentage surged to 64 percent. Whether working on a laptop or streaming video, today’s passengers expect fast and reliable online connectivity while they travel.

Another driver in the need for reliable connectivity on commuter railways is a return to working in the office. A New Jersey Assemblyman suggested that to support this trend, and the productivity of passengers en route, free passenger Wi-Fi should be offered by law.

“We want workers back in the office, back on trains to ease congestion and help the environment, and we don’t want them trapped on trains for hours without Wi-Fi so they can’t get work done,” he said.

Reimagining services to help transport people from point A to point B is a start and expanding digital connectivity is key. According to Amtrak, up to 50 percent of its customers use its free Wi-Fi service, and the company continually improves its passenger Wi-Fi experience because of the value it provides to passengers.

PWC report also underscores the importance of thinking about digital services in a more customer-centric way. There is an opportunity to move away from a moving-trains mindset to a moving-customer focus. They call it the “digital railway” — and high speed Wi-Fi delivered via a railway-certified mobile Internet router is a key component. 

Passenger using Wi-Fi

Building a Wi-Fi Experience Passengers Love and Operators Trust

Creating fast, reliable Wi-Fi on passenger trains starts with deploying Internet mobile router connectivity to support onboard systems. These systems improve operational efficiency, convenience, safety and security. They also enable services that your customers require, while supporting the needs of railway operators. That’s where Digi’s transportation router (TX) solutions can help. 

Our TX solutions support ultra-reliable bandwidth and include comprehensive Wi-Fi hotspot functionality. The Digi TX64 5G Rail mobile Internet router is a key part of our solution for railway systems. We designed it for rail applications that need speed and throughput, as well as continuous connectivity, field longevity and edge computing.

Digi’s Transportation Solutions — Features at a Glance

Digi cellular mobile Internet router solutions combine hardware with sophisticated software to deliver industry leading support for secure, reliable and robust networking. The features include:

  • Hardened compact enclosures and extended temperature range to meet the needs of mission-critical rail applications — including support for all onboard systems, from security systems to passenger rail Wi-Fi, digital signage, dispatch communications, and backhaul 
  • The embedded Linux operating system is universally supported, allowing Digi to quickly add functionality by incorporating commercially available software suites
  • These solutions are designed to provide secure routing and gateway functions across traditional and wireless communication networks, protocols and interfaces

Additionally, Digi Internet mobile router solutions integrate an in-depth security framework and a comprehensive monitoring and management platform, which we’ll discuss next — making these complete, all-in-one solutions that simplify operations.

Railway passenger using Wi-Fi

Ensure Robust Security Integration Across the System 

Some of the largest transit systems in the U.S. trust Digi solutions. Our solutions include built-in security from the ground up to support strict compliance standards in the transportation industry. 

Digi TX64 5G Rail mobile Internet routers provide true enterprise security, supporting message integrity, authentication and encryption. Digi TX64 5G Rail also includes a framework of hardware and firmware features called Digi TrustFence®. TrustFence uses a cryptographic co-processor to store passwords and encryption keys and enables secure edge intelligence and over-the-air firmware updates.

Remotely Manage Deployed Routers with Digi Remote Manager

Digi Remote Manager on a tablet

Digi Remote Manager® is a cloud-based platform that provides the command center for your deployed Digi routers. Use it to rapidly configure and deploy devices, monitor their status, and help operators gain critical insights with reports. It provides network managers with a single, secure platform to access data and manage devices from anywhere. 

Digi Remote Manager — Capabilities at a Glance

Digi Remote Manager (Digi RM) puts network operators in full control, enabling remote monitoring and management as well as configuration updates whenever needed to improve functionality or roll out security patches.

  • Update Digi TX mobile Internet routers with the latest security patches, firmware, and configurations 
  • Create metrics to track the system and assess issues 
  • Set up alerts to proactively warn system administrators when conditions warrant 
  • Quickly add additional preconfigured routers to the network with ease
  • Automate scheduling of common management tasks

Why Digi?

Digi has been creating proven technology solutions for our customers since 1985. Our solutions have connected over 100 million devices. As passenger rail systems strive to build ridership and upgrade the passenger experience, fast, reliable Wi-Fi is a must. We know that aging infrastructure makes it difficult to scale networks as ridership grows. That’s why Digi created an integrated, simplified approach that makes it easy to deploy when you are ready for an upgrade. 

Our end-to-end solutions meet your specifications so you can deploy and scale your mobile access routers fast. We can help you upgrade to next generation connectivity and an improved passenger Wi-Fi experience. Digi TX router solutions include the latest features to support the needs of your passengers and operators:

  • Security — Built-in features protect against misuse and ensure data integrity
  • Remote Management — A simple interface lets you remotely manage your routers 
  • Performance — Equipment designed to maintain the fastest connections with the highest availability
  • Versatility — Supports many types of IP systems and devices
  • Agility — Designed to support many carrier networks and future wireless standards

Next Steps

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