Irish Rail Wi-Fi service chugs through the million session mark

22 Nov 2012

Irish Rail has passed 1m unique sessions on its free Wi-Fi service, which will be available across the entire rolling stock by the end of this month.

FleetConnect, the Dublin-based company which won the tender to fit out the Irish Rail fleet, has revealed data from the service to date, and the statistics show some interesting trends. 

Smartphones typically outnumber laptops by a factor of two to one. For example, in the last week of October, 15,800 phones were detected compared to 7,619 laptops and 1,908 tablets. 

In the same week, iPhone and Android-powered devices were out in the lead with 9,802 and 8,210 respectively. The next most popular OS was Windows 7 (5,699 uses). There were slightly more iPods than iPads (2,826 vs 2,236). RIM’s BlackBerry, which was not so long ago the coveted mobile device, recorded just 628 uses over that week.

Usage of the service is growing steadily upwards – although this was always bound to happen because just a small number of trains were initially fitted with Wi-Fi access points. Between June and July this year, the number of monthly users more than doubled from around 40,715 to 103,683.

There was a dip in numbers during August to 72,413 – possibly explained by people being away on holidays – and then an increase to 140,541 in September and again to 160,961 in October. Average session times hovered around 49 minutes between September and early November.

Sessions are distinct from the number of actual users: one commuter who makes two journeys in a day and logs on every time would be counted as two sessions.

Apps over browsers

Another trend is that in tandem with the increase in smartphone ownership, standard web browsing is giving way to online access through apps. This is also helping to reduce congestion on any particular train. 

“It took 2MB to download a page on Safari – it was more bandwidth-intensive. Apps are a quicker way to surf,” said Patrick Cotter, MD of FleetConnect.

The service is free but there are some limits. According to Cotter, Irish Rail will shortly roll out a fair usage policy aimed at providing more consistent download and upload speeds to all users.

“On a Friday evening, you could have 60 or 70 people on the same train …We’ve got to be able to make sure everybody that logs on has the same experience,” Cotter told

Access to Facebook, Twitter and email will be allowed but music or video sites will be blocked to avoid any one person hogging the available bandwidth. 

FleetConnect’s service uses Icomera equipment, which takes a feed from three of the four mobile networks, O2, Three and Vodafone, at any one time to ensure speeds are as consistent as possible. 

As faster network speeds become available, commuters will see the benefits, Cotter claimed. “The system is 4G and LTE enabled, so once that’s launched, it’ll be ready to go,” he said. 

Irish Rail image via Shutterstock

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic