Whether overland or underground in one of the world's complex train networks, business travellers can now use their travel time between appointments to catch up with work using their laptops, smartphones or other mobile devices.
Below are some city train networks around the world that offer Wi-Fi access to daily commuters.
WASHINGTON DC AND BOSTON
Acela Express Line
Operator: National Railroad Passenger Corporation
Free Wi-Fi: Yes
How to Use: After a successful three-month pilot programme, the AmtrakConnect Wi-Fi service – beginning this month – is now a standard service offering available to every passenger travelling on its high-speed Acela Express line between Washington DC and Boston.
In addition, the Wi-Fi service is available within the gate areas of Washington Union Station, Baltimore Penn Station, Wilmington Station, Philadelphia 30th Street Station, New York Penn Station, Providence Station and Route 128 Station in Boston. Wi-Fi service also continues to be available in all Club Acela lounges in Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.
Amtrak plans to expand the complimentary wireless access to other routes within its network across the US, starting with the trains on its California routes. Work to equip these trains with Wi-Fi is targeted to begin in the fall of 2010.
Free Wi-Fi: Internet access on the track and at stations is available but not complimentary. Visiting commuters must buy a Du WoW prepaid card, which will provide them with Wi-Fi access not only on Metro Dubai trains and stations, but other areas within the city covered by a Du hotspot. The prepaid card costs between AED20 (US$5.40) for three hours' worth of connectivity valid for three days and AED200 (US$54) for unlimited use valid for two months.
How to Use: Dubai Metro allows commuters internet access on all Wi-Fi enabled devices including smartphones and laptops. Average broadband speeds at stations can reach 4Mbps, while backhauling to the network through WiMax sees speeds reach about 2Mbps onboard the trains.
To get connected, just make sure you have a Wi-Fi enabled device, search for wireless networks in range and select du Wi-Fi network, then open your internet browser, choose the Wi-Fi access package that best suits your needs.
Operator: MTR Corporation Limited
Free Wi-Fi: No, visiting commuters can purchase a PCCW Wi-Fi prepaid pass either online at www.pccwwifi.com, PCCW stores or at conveniences stores such as 7 Eleven or Circle K. There are two types of prepaid pass, one is valid for 24 hours after activation at HK$20 (US$2.57) and the other is valid for 30 days at HK$158 (US$20.27).
How to Use: First introduced in 2004, Wi-Fi access is now available in 32 MTR train stations such as main business areas Central, Admiralty, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay. To access the internet at the train stations, turn on the Wi-Fi connection on your device and select the PCCW Wi-Fi Network.
Commuters can use their PCCW Wi-Fi Prepaid pass to connect wirelessly anywhere in the city. PCCW has over 7,000 hotspots to date. Meanwhile, the telecom service operator offers its Wi-Fi service free of charge to arriving and departing passengers at Hong Kong International Airport.
JR East Line
Operator: East Japan Railway Company
Free Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi internet access is provided at the train stations but not for free. Visiting commuters can choose from a range of Wi-Fi access pre-paid cards provided by different mobile telecom services companies. These cards buy city visitors Wi-Fi access in train stations, airports, hotels, restaurants and other public areas. They can also be used on Japan's Shinkansen bullet trains linking Tokyo to other Japanese cities, but a supplemental charge will be levied.
One Wi-Fi access provider, Wi2 300, for example, offers commuters on wireless internet access in nearly 50 stations along Tokyo's JR East Line. Outside the train stations, the company has more than 7,000 hotspots in Metropolitan Tokyo alone as of November last year.
How to Use: Wi2 300 has four kinds of Wi-Fi access prepaid cards: a 6-hour pass at JPY350 (US$3.81), a one-day pass for JPY800 (US$8.71), a three-day pass at JPY1,500 (US$16.34) and a one-week pass at JPY2,000 (US$21.78).
The cards can be purchased online at http://300.wi2.co.jp/en/, where travellers can also register to generate their ID and password to use the service. The meter starts running, so to speak, at first log-in when the traveller activates the service.
To ensure the stability of the Wi-Fi connection, Wi2 300 allows its prepaid card customers to link to the access points of other providers such as BB Mobile Point as well as Livedoor Wireless at no extra charge.
Gigi Onag and Joy Zhou