Portuguese train operator Comboios de Portugal (CP) has announced plans to greatly expand its free on-board WiFi services.

The state-owned company announced that it will launch WiFi on all local train lines running in and around Porto and Lisbon. The move follows a brief but successful trial of WiFi on the suburban routes to Sintra and Cascais in the nation’s capital city.

CP launched a pilot scheme on the two city-based train services on 21 August. During the trial run, the company gathered data on both the performance of the train-to-shore link and how the public reacted to having WiFi access.

Passengers on both lines were asked to fill out questionnaires and give feedback to CP on how the service could be improved.

Despite the very short trial period, CP clearly believes it already has enough evidence of customer demand to support rolling out the service across all trains in and around the country’s two largest cities. The company is said to be convinced that such a move will also boost the number of passengers using suburban rail services.

BWCS believes that the addition of WiFi to train services can, on average, boost ridership by between 2% and 4%. However, these figures may be higher for local train services with a greater proportion of commuters on-board, as the attraction of having a working WiFi connection is higher.

Initially, CP says it plans to work with mobile network operators in a bid to improve track-side coverage in Porto and Lisbon. It has been made clear how this would happen.

Prior to today’s announcement, the only CP trains to offer WiFi were its Alfa Pendular high-speed, Intercity trains. Even then, it was only available on the Northern and Beira-Baixa lines.

CP’s only rival, the private train operator Fertagus, owned by Barraqueiro Group, says it is considering adding on-board Internet access for its trains. However, the company says there is no plan to implement it yet.

Fertagus has a concession to provide suburban transport between Lisbon and Setúbal. On long-distance routes, CP faces very limited competition from other European services, thanks to its rather isolated geographic location.

Barrarqueiro Group IT director António Soares said that the introduction of WiFi on board Fertagus trains is one of the differentiator projects under examination at the group. He told the local press recently that his company is studying the technical feasibility of embedding WiFi in trains.

Fertagus manages a fleet of 18 ‘double-decker’ 3500 Series Electric Quadruple Units (UQEs), each with a capacity of 1,210 passengers. The company already offers WiFi at stations where its trains call.

On-train WiFi services, trackside networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi and on-board entertainment will be the main subjects of BWCS’s WiFi on Trains Conference next June.

The 2019 conference was sponsored by Icomera, Nomad Digital, Fluidmesh, RADWIN and BAI Communications. Sponsorship opportunities are being offered now for next year’s conference. Please get in touch for more details.