PTC-220 Continues to Resolve Interference Issues in Northeast
Tuesday, May 09, 2017 | Comments

PTC-220 said in its construction progress report to the FCC that it has continued to focus on resolving the final spectrum issues along the Northeast Corridor but it needs the FCC’s help to resolve the situation. PTC-220 is comprised of the nation’s largest freight rail companies working to deploy positive train control (PTC).

As previously reported, the two different PTC technologies, I-ETMS (used by freight railroads) and ACSES (used by passenger railroads) have the potential to desensitize each other’s receivers, creating harmful interference when the two systems are operated in close geographic and spectral proximity. PTC-220 identified greater Philadelphia and New England as the two areas along the Northeast Corridor where this interference scenario is predicted to be a serious problem. In an effort to resolve the interference issue, PTC-220 has been actively pursuing the acquisition of additional spectrum in these areas that could be used to provide for greater spectral separation between the two systems.

Transactions to solve the issues in the Philadelphia area should be completed later this month. However, the situation impacting a significant portion of the greater Boston area remains largely unresolved. Even after expending considerable sums to acquire and clear spectrum, PTC-220 has found that the final pieces needed are tied up in contested regulatory proceedings and are not able to be assigned.

“PTC-220 will need the FCC’s assistance in quickly resolving this situation, or the railroads in this area will not be able to deploy PTC consistent with the statutory mandate,” the report said.

The report also said PTC-220’s member railroads have continued to build new or prepare existing base station sites and install base station radios to comply with the PTC mandate. Preparatory work at existing sites includes, among other things, coverage predictions, design and installation of antenna systems, upgrading of site power systems, site pre-wiring and backhaul design. Some of the installed radios are being actively used in various field-testing programs, while others are powered off, awaiting final frequency coordination. The report cited a total of 2,844 radios and 2,991 site preps.

PTC-220’s members are BNSF Railway, Canadian National Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway, CSX Transportation, Kansas City Southern Railway, Norfolk Southern Railway and Union Pacific Railroad.

PTC-220 has active spectrum manager leases with several nonmember railroads including CalTrain, MetroLink, North Country Transit District, Metra and Sound Transit. A spectrum manager lease has been signed with the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis and is in the process of submission to the FCC. In addition, Amtrak, Conrail and Metro North have signed testing leases. PTC-220 is in active leasing negotiations with three other nonmember railroads, and PTC-220 anticipates future negotiations with an additional eight railroads. Some short-line railroads may also need a long-term spectrum lease, depending on the PTC requirements of their owned track.

A new U.S.-Mexico agreement that would allow deployment of PTC in the Mexico border region was finalized Dec 6.

The full report is here.

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