DSB promising stronger on-board signal

Train operator spending 60 million kroner to give passengers a better wireless experience

“I’ll have to call you back. I’m on the train.”

Pretty much everyone that has ever tried to use a mobile phone on one of the nationÂ’s regional trains has uttered those words.

Dropped calls. Lousy connections. Intermittent, if any, internet service. Passengers have wondered for years why they can use their mobile phone to call anywhere in the world from a beach in Skagen, but they can’t get an audible connection while riding on a train just outside of Odense.

After years of disagreement over who is responsible, DSB and the country’s four major mobile providers have agreed to have the problem fixed before the end of 2012.

DSB is investing 60-70 million kroner in small cellular transmitters – called repeaters – to be set up inside InterCity (IC) and regional express trains (Lyntog). Claus Klitholm of DSB’s commercial division told Politiken newspaper that the repeaters will improve the network and customers can expect better performance.

“The quality will be better, and there will be fewer dropped calls,” he said. “The improved coverage will also make internet connections on trains more stabile.”

Klitholm said that it has been tough getting five separate companies to work together on a solution, but stressed that installation of cellular transmitters on trains is the most effective means for improving coverage along the rails.

“Mobile companies want strong coverage in the cities and don’t use as much effort getting a signal in between. We couldnÂ’t amplify a signal the wasn’t there. [The mobile providers] are working with us now and an agreement is nearly in place.”

Trine Bramsen (Socialdemokraterne), a government IT spokesman, said providing strong wireless coverage along the rails has been one of her priorities, and she is happy to see that something is finally getting done.

“DSB has been kicking the problem over to the phone companies and the phone companies have been kicking it back to DSB,” Bramsen told Politiken. “I told them I did not care who was responsible, I wanted it fixed.”

Bramsen said she had threatened to introduce legislation requiring DSB and the mobile carriers to work together because she believed that giving passengers the opportunity to talk and work while on the train without interruption is an incentive for them to choose public transportation.

Klitholm said that constant changes in mobile technology has also made finding a single solution difficult.

The upgrades to the IC and Lyntog network will not return internet service to the 300,000 daily commuters on the Greater Copenhagen areaÂ’s S-trains.

Signs appeared last July telling passengers that the internet on S-trains was temporarily shut down, but that it would return, new and improved, by the fall. Although the ‘GratisDanmark’ signal still pops up on mobile devices as an available network on the trains, there is no service.

ButlerNetworks, the company that supplied the broadband connection to S-trains, went belly up in June 2011. Internet service on S-trains disappeared a month later. After riders complained last September that they were still in the dark, DSB apologised for misleading their customers. DSB told Børsens that they did not want to disappoint people by opening up a “temporary solution” without the promised upgrades and that a permanent solution could take “a long time”. Still no word on when that may be.

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