Brazilian Rail Operator Uses Satellite PTT Solution to Improve Coverage in Remote Areas
By Steven Tompkins
Monday, August 03, 2020 | Comments
Government authorities and logistics providers across the world are constantly having to adapt to an increasing number of challenges facing the transport sector. The movement of goods and people across large areas can be very challenging, especially when trying to ensure operations are always as efficient, safe and sustainable as possible. Fortunately, the internet of things (IoT) combined with satellite communications networks can provide the solution to overcome these challenges.

In Brazil, the railway network is essential for the transport of agricultural, industrial and container cargo to serve the export, import and domestic markets. Rumo is the largest railway operator in Brazil, responsible for managing more than 14,000 kilometers of railway track, more than a thousand locomotives and 28,000 wagons. The railway and its locomotives are vitally important to the Brazilian economy, and it is critical that the company can quickly transport goods and materials in the safest and most cost-efficient way possible.

Like many logistics providers in Latin America, Rumo faced the challenge that most of its rail network passes through remote regions of the country, where mobile network coverage is either limited, unreliable or even non-existent.

Rumo’s locomotives pass through regions of minimal or zero network coverage, meaning that train drivers, railway engineers and control centers often had no way of communicating with each other in real-time. Sent and received messages regularly took longer than ten minutes to arrive. As a result, trains were unable to move forward until they had received updates from the control centre, causing severe timetable delays and operational inefficiencies as well as increased fuel costs due to unnecessary braking and starting.

The lack of real-time audio communication between train drivers and the control center meant operational commands were regularly written on paper when the driver set off, possibly days before. This was causing further problems as it created a significant safety risk for drivers, railways engineers and maintenance crews who would not always receive immediate warnings of oncoming trains. The lack of reliable real-time communications put workers and passengers at risk and meant transport managers didn’t have the capabilities to quickly respond to or manage emergency situations.

For any global logistics company, the protection of staff and cargo and the maintenance of efficient transport operations are top priorities. To rise to these infrastructure challenges, Rumo needed a solution that could bridge the connectivity gap and guarantee unrestricted, real-time communication between train drivers, railway engineers and control centres at all times.

Inmarsat joined forces with Globalsat do Brasil and Cobham to deliver a new rail telemetry and communications solution for the rail industry. The new real-time data transfer, telemetry and push-to-talk (PTT) communications system ensures that Rumo can access accurate, real-time tracking of each train in its expansive network. The system also enables real-time voice communication between drivers, maintenance crews and regional control centers.

The first stage of the project began in early 2020 and by the end of 2021, will have equipped 300 of Rumo’s cargo trains with EXPLORER 325 broadband global area network (BGAN) terminals, EXPLORER Mobile Gateways and Cobham’s PRISM PTT+ service. Crucially, the solution is fully compatible with existing technology on-board Rumo’s locomotives, meaning that there is very little installation work needed on a train’s interior and that the devices can be quickly and easily plugged into a train’s existing on-board electronics. Globalsat do Brasil is the in-country partner and has been implementing the solution as well as delivering on-site warranty, support and repairs.

The solution works by integrating into Inmarsat’s BGAN satellite service, powered by Inmarsat L-band network which exhibits a 99.9% uptime and is trusted by governments, armed forces and companies to stay connected when everything else fails. Additionally, BGAN does not suffer from weather-based interference like some satellite bands. The satellite network enables accurate, real-time tracking of all trains across the network and allows instant voice and data communications between drivers, maintenance crews and regional control centers, no matter where they are located.

Having push-to-talk Radio (PTT) terminals connected to the BGAN network allows instant transmission of critical voice communications between the driver, engineers and the control centre. Even when locomotives are moving through isolated areas and deep tunnels where standard terrestrial and mobile networks do not reach, the rail and telemetry solution retains seamless and reliable connectivity. This means that data from locomotives is instantly visualized on an application in the control center that depicts the entire rail network and position of each vehicle, alongside telematics and engine diagnostics. This gives the transport operators peace of mind, as they have instant access to location, status and telemetry data from each locomotive as it travels along its route.

The project is initially focused on covering all points of “Operation North”, an initiative connecting Mato Grosso to the Port of Santos. Ultimately, the goal is to provide the rest of the fleet with highly reliable BGAN connectivity, ensuring a highly efficient, cost-effective and safer railway network.

Satellite-enabled connectivity services, such as BGAN, are increasingly being adopted in IoT-related projects because they are simple to setup without the need for highly technical expertise or training, and they are highly cost-effective. Moreover, satellite-enabled connectivity services are available across the entire globe, providing critical connectivity wherever a business is operating from.

Although the project is still in its early stages, the partnership between Inmarsat, Globalsat do Brasil and Cobham has produced immediate results. Before implementation, messages between train drivers and control centres took longer than ten minutes to be delivered in areas where there was access to unreliable terrestrial networks. Now, the team has access to real-time communications and this speed of communications and reliability has brought Rumo greater visibility of its assets and infrastructure, which has resulted in significant improvements in operational efficiency.

This greatly increased speed of communications and reliability has brought Rumo greater visibility of its assets and infrastructure, which has resulted in significant improvements in operational efficiency. The BGAN-connected PTT solution has been critical for situations where the train driver needed access to secure, real-time communications while passing through a region without any mobile network coverage. For cost-effectiveness, “least cost routing” automatically connects to the cheapest reliable mobile connection available in any given area and switches to satellite where required, so the driver can make a voice call at any time and costs will be minimised.

Several long-term benefits are also expected from this satellite-enabled solution, with Globalsat do Brasil anticipating the project to significantly reduce costs across the rail network, with estimated savings of millions of dollars per month as a result of optimising the operation and taking care to avoid unnecessary braking and acceleration. Additional savings will also be made as Rumo will be able to transport more goods in less time without having to invest in new locomotives and new wagons.

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Steven Tompkins is Inmarsat’s director of sector development for Agriculture. He is responsible for using the organization’s market leading high-speed data communications and global internet of things (IoT) capability to build practical solutions for a digitally connected agriculture sector. 

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On 8/4/20, Roberto Aroso said:
Such kind of telecommunications support is essential for the agriculture increasing and Brazil is nowadays one of the food s main supplier if the world.
It was impossible to continue supplying the world without reliable communications in so distant places.
Our deep congratulations for such nice improvement


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