Rail Industry Looks to LTE Standards for Broadband Communications
Monday, October 08, 2018 | Comments
New Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards targeting the rail industry are moving forward alongside public-safety standards.

Industry leaders say Long Term Evolution (LTE) provides an opportunity for railway operators to provide a single unified network for operational and maintenance services. The single network would include passenger information applications, closed-circuit TV (CCTV), traffic management, ticketing and other services.

Because of the coming obsolescence of GSM-R technology in 2025 according to forecasts, Europe is looking to LTE as the next technology for railways. LTE accomplishes the requirements drawn by the European Railway Agency (ERA).

LTE offers advantages compared to GSM-R, including an efficient architecture to provide low latencies and a higher data capacity. In addition, the technology includes sophisticated quality of service (QoS) mechanisms to guarantee and apply priorities in the reservation of resources for different applications without affecting the resiliency or the security in the network operation.

“It is crucial that communications within the transport sector involve advanced mission-critical voice and data services along with the integration of other applications including signalling, dispatching and passenger information,” said Nicolas Hauswald, sales and marketing director for communications equipment supplier ETELM. “This is where mission-critical LTE becomes so important in meeting these communications requirements, as it provides the perfect solution for transport communications as LTE offers higher speed mobile data services and mission critical voice services.”

Executives at Teltronic agreed that LTE meets broadband requirements in mission-critical environments such as transport and is the best option because LTE supplies a pure IP packet network with fast network management, low latencies and high data rates.

LTE allows applications such as video surveillance, internet connections for passengers and loading operational files, along with data communications for signalling applications European train control system (ETCS) and communications-based train control (CBTC), among others. Future ETCS communications systems will be IP based.

The majority of CBTC implementations in the market are using Wi-Fi networks for train-to-ground technology. These systems support the data communications between the on-board protection equipment and the wayside elements along the tracks.

Wi-Fi technology is attractive because of its cost, easiness of configuration and commercial availability, however, there are major disadvantages to using Wi-Fi for vital communications of a CBTC system. There is a high risk of interference because of the use of nonlicensed bands, a high number of required access points — every 100 to 200 meters. In addition, Wi-Fi does not support native policies QoS or mobility.

LTE technology solves these downsides for the operation of CBTC signalling systems and provides other benefits such as coverage ranges around several kilometers instead of hundreds of meters, native support of mobility management that reduces handover times between adjacent cells, advanced mechanisms of QoS and licensed frequency bands that minimize the risk of interferences.

Moreover, the greater data transmission rate will offer flexibility to support the increasing demand of data transmission for CBTC signalling applications in the new driverless train systems.

In addition, broadband and narrowband can connect on a single LTE evolved packet core (EPC). Railway operators could provide a private solution with additional consumer services or outsource the mission-critical operational services to a mobile network operator that will benefit from the additional consumer services onboard and in stations.

Etelm developed 4GLinked, a hybrid solution based on LTE and TETRA communications services, for the transport sector. The solution, based on standards, provides seamless communications between both technologies, allowing them to operate over a single, fully distributed network.

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