European Space Agency

Preparation for Internet to Trains Initiative: Broadband on Trains, Analysis of the Opportunity and Development Roadmap


This study provides train operators and ESA with a review of the opportunity presented by Internet to Trains. It will specifically seek to address the following questions:

  • What is the size of the current market for internet to trains across the EU25 and Canada?
  • What is the optimal business structure for provision of internet to trains?
  • What combinations of business structure, market uptake and technical implementation provide a positive return on investment?
  • What are the generic technical requirements for internet to trains services to allow train operators to set up or procure services?
  • What regulatory, standardisation and technical issues need to be addressed in the target markets to allow the successful implementation of Internet on Trains?


Charing Policy

  • Internet access revenues alone will generally not support BBonT business even at hotel hotspot prices,
  • Modal switch can be used to justify BBonT business case (but it will be difficult to measure operationally):
    • Routes with low ticket prices will need more innovative pricing structures,
  • On Board WLAN could be used for additional services e.g. Entertainment, advertising,
  • Different price strategies need to be followed for routes in different countries and with differing characteristics.

Business Model

  • Cost of satellite capacity is the most sensitive parameter,
  • Ka-band satellite services offer the potential to improve the commercial viability of BBonT services through significant savings in cost per MHz.,
  • Higher usage and more bandwidth hungry applications coupled with commercial constraints will also drive the adoption of Ka-band within the period to 2016,
  • Users of internet services on trains can not expect the same levels of performance (speeds) as fixed connections in home or office.

Market Size

  • Addressable market for Ka-band terminals could be 170 units by 2016 for all 25 European High Speed Lines worth Euro 7 million for antenna’s alone,
  • Addressable market for satellite capacity (based on number of simultaneously circulating trains and FWD and RTN bandwidth):
    • 480MHz (capacity limited to 5Mbps/1.6Mbps per train),
    • 2.9GHz (capacity limited at 30 Mbps / 10 Mbps per train),
  • Addressable market for Satellite Operator Revenues of Euro 11.5 m to Euro 70m per year.


European citizens are demanding mobile access to broadband networks, also while they are travelling. The users are already capable of accessing these services at stations and airports and the logical extension is their provision on board. To respond to this demand, train operator companies are evaluating available technologies and are launching research initiatives to test different solutions.

The first experiences that have been launched have shown that there is a very important market to be covered in this sector with a high growth in demand. This study will gather a systematic overview of all issues affecting the potential deployment of these services. The result of this activity will be the outline of a sustainable service ready to be commercially exploited by European operators with an affordable cost to the passenger and the service providers using the technology developed by the European manufacturers.


A general reference model is presented in the figure below.

click for larger image


Phase 2 is divided into the following WPs:

  • WP4000 – Market Evolution Forecasts 2006-2016
  • WP5000 – Technical Evolution of Broadband Access on Trains
  • WP6000 – Applicable Regulations and Standards
  • WP7000 – User Workshop Organisation (May 2007)

Current status

The final presentation of phase 2 took place on April 1st at ESA-ESTEC premises in Noordwijk.

Status date

Monday, December 15, 2008 - 11:47