Fortunately new 4G cellular technologies such as LTE are creating bigger pipes for demanding applications and heavy traffic. “LTE is already set to become the wireless broadband standard for mission-critical public safety applications, so it should be sufficiently capable for mass transit,” confirmed Alan Tilles, an attorney with Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker of Potomac MD. Clearly broadband implementation such as that described by CCJPA does not come cheap. But as Allison points out, a transit agency’s business model must show such a service is sustainable. While others have tried charging for Wi-Fi access, or hoped that advertising would foot the bill (both flawed approaches according to Allison), CCJPA has opted for the Induced Ticket Revenue model – in short, Wi-Fi must pull in more paying passengers. “A 1% increase in ticket sales should break even on CCJPA’s costs and 2% would put us in the black,” says Allison; a model born out by T-Systems in Germany and the Amtrak Acela service in the Northeastern United States. If correct, then this is a formulaic rule-of-thumb other transit authorities could use to gauge how much budget to apportion to passenger Wi-Fi initiatives.
Jim Baker is CEO at Xentrans, Inc., a wireless project management consultancy based in San Francisco and London. A C-level wireless industry veteran, Baker has been involved in many deployments of wireless technologies on passenger transportation worldwide and is a recognized industry expert on Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G convergence. He is Chair of the Technology Committee at the Joint Council on Transit Wireless Communications that is developing a strategic plan for implementation of wireless technologies in mass transit. Contact Baker via LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.