Bidders are currently sharpening their pencils as the deadline draws close for submissions to offer a Wi-Fi on trains service the Kochi Metro. Those interested in getting on board with the soon-to-be-launched 26km long service have until the 8 April to finalise their offers.

The ambitious plan to provide a shiny new train service in the South-Western Indian city will see 25 Alstom-supplied trains running between 25 newly created stations. It is due to go into service this May, at a cost of some 5,181 Crore (US$760 million) although some estimates say the investment will be much higher.

According to the bid documents, the contract to offer on-board and at-station Wi-Fi will be valid for 15 years. The deal will also cover some 38 jetties used by municipal ferries. Any interested party must be able to demonstrate at least three successful Wi-Fi implementations, at least one of which should be on a transportation system, though these do not necessarily have to have been in India.

The RFP calls for a complete turn-key solution including hardware, software, maintenance and support to ‘enable Wi-Fi at all Kochi Metro stations and on trains including subsequent phases and expansions and other transport projects’. Kochi Metro has confirmed that there are at least a dozen interested parties.

The winning bidder will be allowed to retain at least a shore of the subscription fees – tough the service will be free for the first 30 minutes. Advertising revenues will also be on offer as will "Any other revenue generating model as mutually agreed in writing."

The body responsible for the new train service, the KMRL, said it is in talks with Indian telco BSNL to provide the connectivity for the Wi-Fi service.

A spokesman for the train operator, quoted in the national Hindu newspaper last year, said "The BSNL has many schemes, but we are worried about technical issues since connectivity can be assured only at stations. We are striving to ensure seamless connectivity by overcoming technical challenges to provide connectivity in moving trains,"

Kochi will become the second Metro service in India to offer Wi-Fi after Mumbai Metro. The Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL), which is owned by Reliance Infrastructure and Veolia Transport, has used You Broadband to provide the station links, according to the Times of India.

Launched last year, Line 1 is the first of three instalments of the new Mumbai transport links which are being constructed over a 15-year period to provide services to those of the 20 million Mumbai residents who do not live near the existing suburban rail services.

Vodafone has been prominent in piloting Wi-Fi zones in India, where it has launched several Wi-Fi areas around metro stops, including in Mumbai, for its subscribers. It has also set-up a free Wi-Fi zone for its customers at the Belvedere Rapid Metro Station in Gurgaon.

Reliance Industries’ own company Reliance Jio Infocomm has also launched eight hotspots in Ahmedabad and at nine locations at Baroda and Surat. Meanwhile, not to be outdone, Tata Teleservices is said to be planning to launch 4,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in nine cities across India, while the government backed MTNL says it will launch hotspots for its customers in Mumbai and Delhi.

The expanding market for on-board Wi-Fi services as well as the problems of intermittent mobile coverage, proposed trackside solutions and other issues will all be covered in this year’s Wi-Fi on Trains Conference hosted by BWCS.

For more information on next year’s event please see the Train Communications System Conference website or contact BWCS.

This year’s Train Communications System Conference is sponsored by Icomera (Gold), Nomad Digital (Silver), Fluidmesh (Bronze), 21Net (Cocktails), LetsJoin (Lunch Day 1) and RADWIN (Lunch Day 2).