Thursday, August 3, 2006

Caltrain WiFi Access

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. San Jose, to be exact. Much of my business takes place in Palo Alto/Menlo Park, and San Francisco. So, I get around.

I hate commuter traffic. My time is valuable and the attention required to navigate safely in heavy bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic is not conducive to thinking clearly and advancing my business or the business of my clients. Life in the Bay Area somewhat forces you to become a savvy commuter.

There are many techniques I employ to keep myself out of traffic:

  • Telecommuting (working from home over broadband) when possible

  • Car-pooling with Amy when I go to Menlo Park (where she works)

  • Setting up meetings that allow me to avoid rush-hour travel

  • Riding my motorcycle gives me access to the HOV lane and lane-splitting, and often eases any parking-related hassles

  • Riding Caltrain when I go to Palo Alto or San Francisco

  • I'll likely get a Prius with the HOV-lane access sticker someday (or maybe the Tesla Roadster)...

More and more of my business is taking me to San Francisco. Both startups and new Venture Capital funds are finding their headquarters up there. Caltrain offers a fantastic Baby Bullet train that gets you from San Jose to San Francisco in under an hour. And, it's a great ride - very relaxing. I get a ton of work done on the train. This quiet-time allows me to prepare for the day in the morning and wind-up the day in the evening. I even have some of my most productive meetings with people while riding on the train (I love having a captive audience).

The Mercury News covered the Caltrain announcement that they have successfully demonstrated WiFi connectivity on Caltrain between Millbrae and Palo Alto. WiFi (802.11) antennas are used on the train cars which gateway to a set of WiMax (presumably 802.16) towers placed strategically along the route. I'm personally not a big believer in WiMax for the masses (3G/4G networks will be "good enough" with tons of existing infrastructure already in place), but this is a great application for it. Caltrain believes it will take one more year to fully deploy the system and have it cover the entire route from San Jose to San Francisco.

I fully support and encourage high-speed Internet access on commuter trains! There was no mention of cost of the service, but it's pretty easy to build a business model that returns the $1M it might take to build out the service (selling per-day access or monthly access, say). Of course, I hope they decide to make it a free offering.

ABC7 News Video coverage here.

Other wireless train trials here.

For me, I get my Mobile Internet access through my Cingular service via my Nokia E61 smartphone. A bit slow today, but more than enough bandwidth for activities I need while riding the train. And, it works right now.

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  1. FWIW, I know one of the consultants of the Caltrain WiFi system and as a backup to the 802.16 they are using 3G technology.

  2. [...] I’ve said it before. In the end, 4G will win over WiMAX. Now, that doesn’t mean that WiMAX won’t be able to find applications for which the technology is particularly well suited. It just means that in the global mobile marketplace, WiMAX will not be a replacement for the cellular infrastructure that will eventually lead to 4G deployments. [...]

  3. [...] Published August 31, 2006 Mobile , Technology , Venture Capital Leave a Comment I’ve said it before. In the end, 4G will win over WiMAX. Now, that doesn’t mean that WiMAX won’t be able to [...]


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