umlaut study: Digital services on trains are becoming increasingly important
Video conferences, cloud sync or gaming: in ten years' time, commuters travelling by rail will need stable connections for up to 11.1 Gbit/s.
Being productive when you are on the move and being able to use the internet just like you do at home – this could help to encourage more people to travel by rail and thus make a positive contribution to protecting the environment. This was the verdict of a connectivity study carried out by umlaut, part of Accenture, in which they put questions to more than 250 train travellers on Germany's local and long distance rail networks. They also took measurements related to the usage of digital applications. The demand for broadband on local transport is today almost 0.7 Gbit/s, on long distance routes it is 1.2 Gbit/s. This demand cannot currently be met across the board at the maximum level. This gap will only get wider in the coming years. "By 2031, we anticipate that demand will increase by a factor of as much as ten," says Markus Jordans, Managing Director of umlaut. Deutsche Telekom´s target is to cover a supply of 0.1 Gbit/s on the main rail routes in the year 2022, and this is to be expanded to 0.2 Gbit/s by 2024.
In the study, the media activity of the passengers was determined under the prerequisite of optimal connectivity. Commuters were asked questions on their use of the internet and on their use of rail services and whether this depended on having a good internet connection. Across all age groups, the majority of respondents said that a stable data connection on the train was an important factor. 94 percent of passengers in the 21 - 30 age group felt that a stable data connection was important on long distance routes, as against 60 percent for local transport. For those under 20 years of age, the figures were 75 percent of passengers for local transport and 95 percent for long distance travel.
The need for expansion is increasing by 15 % each year
"If we want more people to travel by train more often, we need to ensure that the benefits for them are maximised. This will only succeed if Wi-Fi standards are optimised and if seamless mobile phone network coverage can be guaranteed," Jordans goes on to explain. In addition, the data consumption of 15 relevant categories of application was also measured, as were the data transmission profiles on a smartphone and on a laptop. "Even now, the actual demand for broadband on trains is way above the available capacity. Our study only provides us with a kind of snapshot – the requirements for mobile data connections will continue to increase in the future," Jordans tells us.
The volume of data in stationary internet traffic has risen by an average of 42 percent over the past few years. Taking into account the increasing utilisation of trains, the growing importance of mobile internet use, cloud services, and new developments in mobile devices and digital services, the broadband network on the rail tracks is already today reaching its limits. According to the umlaut survey, the need for expansion is rising at a rate of around 15 percent per year. In addition to this, we also calculated both a cautious and a more ambitious scenario for the year 2031 – with a demand of 1.1 Gbit/s to 6.2 Gbit/s on local transport and 1.9 Gbit/s to 11.1 Gbit/s on long distance routes. Jordans tells us: "Our study shows that if we are to succeed in getting more people to switch from road transport to more environmentally friendly rail travel, we still have a lot of work to do!"
Around 19 percent of the CO2 that is emitted in Germany comes from private motorised vehicles. The Climate Protection Act states that, by the year 2030, our emissions must not exceed 85 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. "This corresponds to a reduction of 10 million tonnes by 2030 – as a climate-friendly alternative, rail travel could provide crucial leverage," says Jordans. The goal of getting more people to travel by train will require a huge increase in capacity: "With this long-term increase in demand, we also need to think about setting up a dedicated network infrastructure along the rail network. Taking a look at other countries, we can see that the technologies that will allow us to meet the customer's need for an up-to-date internet provision already exist. A decisive factor here is the willingness to initiate the necessary investment in good time and to work together so that we can pool our strengths."