WE’RE NOT quite there with planes yet, but trains and automobiles are signing up to offer free internet access to passengers.
National Radio Cabs, one of Dublin’s largest taxi firms, will shortly begin a trial of Wi-Fi in some of its fleet, following the lead of several private coach operators and Iarnród Éireann.
The service will be free to NRC customers. According to Michael Branagan, the company’s director of operations, the cost of installing the equipment – which the drivers have to bear – could be offset by advertising. “Hopefully we get great interest from the drivers who take part in the trials and they want to take it forward,” he says.
Dublin-based FleetConnect is supplying the technology for the trial.
Managing director Patrick Cotter says its Wi-Fi system uses a roof-mounted antenna connected to two separate 3G mobile networks, so that it can switch between the two, depending on the strongest signal.
Within the cab itself, passengers connect to the antenna via Wi-Fi using netbooks, laptops or hand-held devices such as the iPhone or BlackBerry.
NRC won’t be the first to offer internet access: Marty Fallon, an independent taxi driver based in Dublin, has been offering free Wi-Fi in his cab since last Easter and says passengers have been very happy with the service.
“Anybody who has used it is over the moon about it, particularly visitors. I have had passengers tell me they can’t get this in New York or Florida and, from what I gather, it’s not on the Continent either.”
The commissioner for taxi regulation Kathleen Doyle has welcomed the adoption of innovative technology in the industry.
“Meeting consumers’ changing needs is key to success in any business,” she said.
Xpert Digi Taxis, which has pioneered technology in its fleet, has internet access in its cabs, but this is restricted for driver use only.