Starlink WAN Bonding for rail

With the expected rollout of Starlink antennas for rail by in the second half of 2024, rail operators face a transformative period in connectivity that might finally see reliable uplinks even in more remote locations. At Unwired Networks, we're integrating this cutting-edge satellite technology with our Unwired Edge Cloud and - even more importantly - our Unwired CloudLink WAN Bonding to provide unmatched reliability and speed. In this blog post, we’ll explore the advantages Starlink brings to train operators and illustrate how using Starlink in combination with Unwired CloudLink significantly enhances train connectivity.

What you can expect:

A Connectivity Revolution for Transit

Finally Connected: No Route Left Offline!

Wave goodbye to those pesky connectivity dead zones that plagued your routes! With Starlink lighting up the skies, we’re bringing high-speed internet to the most remote corners of your tracks. It’s a significant leap forward, not just in keeping trains online but in transforming how you manage and monitor your fleet. Unwired CloudLink’s WAN Bonding takes this a step further by not just connecting to every available network, but optimizing them to work more efficiently together. This powerful combination eliminates the “out of service” areas once and for all, ensuring continuous coverage from the moment your trains depart to when they arrive at their destination. Now, uninterrupted connectivity across every mile is not just possible—it’s a reality.

What is Starlink?

Starlink, developed by SpaceX, is a satellite internet constellation designed to provide high-speed internet from space. Utilizing a network of thousands of small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO), Starlink aims to deliver internet coverage across the globe, focusing on underserved and remote areas where traditional broadband is unreliable or unavailable. This satellite network is unique because its satellites are positioned much closer to Earth than traditional satellites, reducing latency and increasing the speed of data transmission. This makes Starlink an innovative solution for rail operators looking to manage connectivity independently of traditional telecommunications providers, offering them unprecedented autonomy and expanding high-speed internet access to even the most remote regions.

The main benefits of Starlink for train operators

  • No More Black Spots On Your Routes: This is the big one, and probably worth two benefits on this list: the real game-changer with Starlink is its ability to provide reliable, high-speed internet access across even the most remote or rural areas—regions often neglected by traditional cellular coverage and unlikely to see investment in ground-based infrastructure like 5G towers. This satellite network ensures that trains maintain stable connections throughout their journeys, effectively closing the coverage gaps and aiming for 100% connectivity across all routes. This level of consistency in previously unreachable areas isn’t just a single benefit; it’s a transformative advancement for the entire industry.
  • Real-Time Operational Data Transmission: The availability of robust internet connectivity allows for the continuous transmission of operational data, enabling train operators to implement predictive maintenance and enhance route management efficiency.
  • Improved WiFi Stability for Passengers: With Starlink, passengers can enjoy stable and fast WiFi, enhancing their travel experience with seamless access to entertainment, live updates, and communication services throughout their journey. Additionally, through Unwired CloudLink, we can prioritize uplinks based on the least cost, ensuring efficient use of network resources without compromising on connectivity quality.
  • Independence from Ground-Based ISPs: Starlink provides an alternative to traditional ground-based internet services, giving train operators the ability to establish and maintain internet connectivity independently of local infrastructure constraints. Furthermore, with Unwired CloudLink, operators can enhance this service by intelligently combining Starlink with 5G networks. This integration allows for even greater coverage and reliability, ensuring optimal connectivity wherever your routes may lead.
    Advanced Onboard Systems Support: High-speed and reliable internet from Starlink supports high-demand applications such as CCTV, advanced passenger information systems, and other data-intensive technologies.
Benefits of Starlink for train operators

How Do I Get Starlink for My Trains?

Implementing Starlink for your train operations involves three steps. Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Install a Dedicated Antenna and Router: The initial step in setting up Starlink for your train involves establishing a reliable uplink to the Starlink satellites. This requires installing a dedicated Starlink antenna along with a router, both specifically designed for mobile environments and capable of handling the dynamic movements of train travel. The antenna is built and provided by Starlink to ensure compatibility and optimal performance. Additionally, a mount or frame, typically produced by a third-party, will be necessary to securely attach the antenna to your train. These antennas and the accompanying equipment are expected to be available later this year or early next year, enabling connectivity even in the most remote areas.
  • Integrate with a Vehicle Router: Once the antenna is installed, it must be connected to the vehicle router onboard your train. The vehicle router manages the uplink, ensuring continuous Internet access and integrating with your train’s existing communication systems. It acts as the central hub for all connectivity needs, routing data between the Starlink network and your train’s internal network.
  • Partner with a Starlink Reseller: To effectively use Starlink, you’ll need to work with a certified Starlink reseller. These partners can help manage data volume limits, ensuring that you have adequate bandwidth for your operational needs without exceeding data caps. They can also assist with technical support, account management, and ensuring compliance with local regulations regarding satellite communications.
Typical Starlink Train Setup - Antenna, Router, Satellite

Unwired Edge Cloud for the best Starlink integration

Optimized WAN Bonding with Unwired CloudLink:

Unwired CloudLink enhances connectivity by intelligently aggregating all available uplinks—such as 5G and Starlink—to maintain the highest quality of service at all times. Unwired CloudLink continuously leverages all uplinks, dynamically adjusting how data is shared across them based on their current performance. This approach ensures seamless internet service, maintaining robust connections even under challenging conditions.

Unwired CloudLink utilizes the combined strengths of each connection, simultaneously. It integrates Starlink’s expansive coverage to maintain connection stability in remote areas and leverages 5G’s high-speed capabilities in urban settings. This not only provides consistent connectivity everywhere but also maximizes the overall bandwidth available to passengers and operations on the train.

Furthermore, Unwired CloudLink’s sophisticated system architecture provides reliable failover support. Should any link degrade or fail, the system seamlessly manages the connectivity load across the remaining active links, preventing service interruptions and maintaining a reliable and consistent internet experience.

Unwired Networks as Your ISP

When integrating Starlink with the Unwired Edge Cloud, Unwired Networks acts as your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Unwired CloudLink’s bonding service includes a managed bonding server that manages all network traffic. This way, we can consistently provide an appropriate IP address based on your location. For instance, if a train operator in Germany uses Starlink, which might assign a non-German IP, all traffic can still be routed through our Germany-based bonding server, ensuring the provision of a German IP. This capability is crucial for maintaining operational compliance and seamless connectivity, regardless of the satellite network’s inherent IP configuration.

As your ISP, we handle the complexities of network management, allowing you to focus on managing train operations and ensuring a high-quality travel experience for your passengers, along with reliable connectivity for your onboard applications and network devices.

Join Us as an Early Adopter

Interested in experiencing Starlink before your competitors? Now is the chance to explore how Starlink WAN Bonding can enhance your operations. We’re inviting train operators to join us as early adopters in our Proof of Concept (PoC) project for Starlink WAN Bonding. This is your opportunity to first-hand assess how this cutting-edge technology can enhance your operational capabilities and set you apart in the industry.

Don’t let this chance slip by. If you’re ready to lead in adopting advanced connectivity solutions, contact us to find out more about this project.

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