All aboard the nation’s first Wi-Fi buses

21 Jan 2009

A 90-year old Irish bus fleet has joined forces with Vodafone and Fleet Connect to become the first in Ireland to deploy Wi-Fi on-board its fleet to keep passengers, from students to professionals, connected while on the move.

JJ Kavanagh & Sons is the first in Ireland to bring the information age to its passengers with the introduction of on-board Wi-Fi to its full fleet of Fáilte Ireland-approved coaches with its partners Fleet Connect.

The latest in vehicle technology will provide high-speed wireless internet access for all passengers, and allow JJ Kavanagh & Sons to track the location of each vehicle in its fleet in real-time, leading to an improved service for its customers.

JJ Kavanagh & Sons has selected Vodafone as the mobile data service provider for the deployment, taking advantage of Vodafone’s 3G mobile broadband network that uses HSDPA (High-speed download packet access) for download speeds up to 3Mbps.

Students will want to access to social entertainment such as Bebo and Facebook, and all passengers now have the option of logging online for their specific needs throughout their journey.

JJ Kavanagh & Sons has partnered with Fleet Connect, which has fitted coaches with 3G broadband-enabled MoovBox M series wireless technology. The MoovBox M service was judged the ‘Best Wi-Fi Product’ in the Wireless Broadband Innovation Awards 2008. 

The MoovBox mobile gateway is a ruggedised Wi-Fi access point and cellular router, offering multiple wide area network (WAN) radios for automatic fail-over carriers and featuring built-in GPS for real-time positioning.

MoovBox products also offer secure Ethernet for IP-CCTV, DVR and telematics equipment, with remote in-bound access for device control and support plug-and-play upgradeability to future technologies such as Wi MAX. The multi-user MoovManage service provides real-time device tracking, schedule adherence monitoring, remote device configuration and Wi-Fi portal and usage statistics.

Patrick Cotter, director of Fleet Connect, said introduction of the Wi-Fi service resulted from the growing need of business commuters to be accessible and connected at all times, as well as increased consumer internet usage.

“Such a major commitment to this technology from Ireland’s largest Irish-owned player is clear evidence that public transport is the new major market for Wi-Fi hot spots and the services that in-bus internet connectivity enables”. 

Recent research reflects how public Wi-Fi hotspot usage grew by over 272% in Europe in 2008.

“The additional ability of the MoovBox to act as an internet hub for in vehicle services such as tracking, CCTV and entertainment, means that forward-thinking operators like JJ Kavanagh & Sons are equipping their fleets for future multimedia applications

“The demand for mobile internet connectivity has grown rapidly in recent years, particularly amongst business professionals who need to be accessible while on the move,” added Anne O’Leary, enterprise director, Vodafone Ireland.

“Vodafone has Ireland’s fastest and most-reliable mobile network with high-quality mobile broadband coverage available nationwide. Coverage currently stands at over 89% population coverage. Along with the quality of coverage, the ease of use of this technology will allow passengers to enjoy simple, fast and reliable connectivity whilst travelling with JJ Kavanagh & Sons,” she explained.

Launching the new service, JJ Kavanagh director Paul Kavanagh said: “It’s an exciting time for the company. Providing internet connectivity to our entire fleet introduces a technology platform on which we can build new and innovative services that not only benefits our passengers but also improves the way our fleet operates.”

JJ Kavanagh & Sons recently reinforced its position as Ireland’s premier Irish-owned transport operator by launching an airport service to both Shannon and Dublin airports, running throughout the night.

Established in 1919, the family-run JJ Kavanagh & Sons is the largest privately owned coach company in Ireland, with each coach having a maximum average age of 1.7 years.

The company has a fleet of over 110 Fáilte Ireland-approved coaches, along with the recent addition of 15 tri Axle Setra executive coaches.

Caption: Pictured at the launch of the first on-board Wi-Fi service in Ireland were: Paul Kavanagh, director, JJ Kavanagh & Sons; Ann O Leary, enterprise director of Vodafone Ireland; JJ Kavanagh, director JJ Kavanagh & Sons; and Paddy Cotter, director, Fleet Connect

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years