Broadband for planes, trains and automobiles


2 Apr 2009

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Established by ex-Eircom engineers, Next Generation Networks (NGN) is branching out into putting Wi-Fi on buses, trains and taxis across Ireland. Emmanuel Kennedy is a director of NGN.

Is Ireland going to be constantly in a state of catch up when it comes to broadband?
The rollout of broadband in Ireland is not too bad, but it will be the proliferation of consumer needs for fast, mobile broadband access that will drive the market.

With the explosion of social networking sites and the continued growth in people going online and using broadband-dependent applications, the hunger for bandwidth is only going to increase.

The users have moved from sitting at a PC to wanting fast access on the go, whenever and wherever they may be. This is the challenge that all countries face and in Ireland we have the chance to be at the forefront of the mobile-broadband revolution.

What was the catalyst for setting up Next Generation Networks (NGN)?
NGN was originally formed with a view to providing core network test/measurement services and solutions and fibre transport solutions to the telecommunications industry.

My colleague, Gavin McGowan, and I both have a background in core network technologies at Eircom.

This has been a very successful area for us and we have many high-profile customers who avail of our products and services.

We’ve also used this time to build on our existing customer base and to expand the company into new markets such as providing managed consumer broadband solutions.

With the move to Wi-Fi networking in taxis, buses and trains, how do you see the market for mesh networks evolving?
The evolvement of Wi-Fi in public and private transport is only the beginning of consumer and business trends for fast internet access at low cost. Often, these services are provided for free, so models have to evolve that can sustain the broadband access.

We think that mesh networks and low-cost networking devices have a much stronger chance of making the reality of ubiquitous Wi-Fi on the move a real prospect.

Are transport providers aware of these services and are commuters making enough noise?
Transport operators are aware of Wi-Fi and fast mobile broadband and are looking to implement such services.

Consumers definitely want these services and we can learn from other countries where these systems have been successfully implemented — the increase in passenger numbers has been a direct result.

How does a mobile mesh network work?
You establish a mobile router in a place where multiple Wi-Fi enabled devices such as mobile phones, laptops and point of sale terminals can access the internet through a 3G gateway.

It is not simply a box that supplies Wi-Fi, as it is able to support multiple commercial applications such as CCTV monitoring, GPS tracking, wireless ticketing, real-time passenger information and many more applications.

This technology can be deployed on commercial transports, delivery and courier vehicles, boats, low-altitude aircraft, police and emergency vehicles and military applications.

By John Kennedy