June 30, 2006, 3:15 PM — Passengers on the famous Japanese Shinkansen "bullet trains" will be able to surf the Internet while traveling at 300 kilometers per hour thanks to a new service planned by the railway operator. But there's going to be quite a wait until the first wireless LAN equipped trains arrive at the platform.
Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai), which operates the Shinkansen service between Tokyo and the western Japanese city of Osaka, said that it plans to offer wireless Internet service throughout all cars of its new N700-series trains from early 2009.
A general upgrade of the communications system for the trains will enable the service, which will be supplied to the train through a leaky coaxial cable that runs alongside the train tracks. A similar analog system is already in operation providing basic communications and a radio channel that is rebroadcast in the train but the new system will be digital and carry Internet traffic.
Few details of the Internet service have been worked out, except that it will be delivered to passengers through wireless LAN base stations located in each car of the train. A service provider has yet to be selected and no decision has been made on whether the service will be offered at no charge, a JR Tokai spokesman said.
The communication system upgrade will bring other benefits. Also new will be an internal mobile phone service that allows the train's driver and guard to speak to each other at any time and also allows for three-way calls with other such as train company officials or station controllers in the event of a problem or emergency.