The nation's first mass-transit train with wireless Internet access rolled through Silicon Valley this week, offering laptop-lugging testers access to the Web and e-mail without forcing them to peck at tiny phone or BlackBerry keyboards.
Nomad Digital Ltd. and Intel Corp. outfitted the Caltrain light-rail vehicle with WiMAX-based technology, which provided continuous high-speed Internet access between the popular Millbrae and Palo Alto stations. The train reached 79 mph while testers from the companies watched streaming video, composed e-mail and completed a large file download at broadband speeds.
The system links the train to track-side wireless base stations, with radios located every few miles along the rail. Caltrain might also use the technology to monitor train speeds and security cameras.
Randy Rudolph, Caltrain's chief information officer, said the successful debut means the company can introduce the technology along the entire line, from Gilroy north through San Jose to San Francisco. It will likely be available within two months. Caltrain does not plan to charge extra for the service.
Hexham, England-based Nomad has installed similar systems in the United Kingdom and Holland, and now is working on wireless projects in China, the Middle East and South America.