FCC Allows Certification, Operation of UWB Train Positioning System
Friday, November 13, 2020 | Comments

The FCC granted a waiver request from Piper Networks that will allow the company to certify and operate its ultrawideband (UWB) train positioning system in the 4.243 – 4.743 GHz band in New York City and Harris County, Texas.

The system, which is called the Enhanced Transit Location System (ELTS), was designed for use on subways and commuter trains to calculate the position of a moving train and provide that information to the trains’ communication-based train control system. The ETLS provides position information of trains but does not control them.

The system is made up of three components: anchors, tags and tag controllers. Anchors are installed along the wayside or tunnel perimeter walls as fixed infrastructure and use an UWB radio and a directional antenna to communicate at distances of 50 to 500 meters. The tags are mounted on the front and back of a train and are responsible for gathering ranging and distance information from the anchors. Tag controllers are installed onboard the train and act as the processing unit for ranging data to compute a train’s location. The tag controllers also send and receive network data from within the train to the train’s on-board computer.

Piper asked for a waiver of certain sections that would allow it to certify the equipment and operate it. The system would be deployed on rail transit facilities in the greater New York City area, including in the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as Harris County, Texas.

Under FCC rules for the 4.243 – 4.743 band, UWB devices must be handheld and cannot employ a fixed infrastructure. Additionally, use of antennas mounted on outdoor infrastructure is prohibited as well.

In a request for comment on Piper’s waiver request, one company commented and expressed concern that the system could cause interference to aviation services, specifically radio altimeters in the 4.2-4.4 GHz band. Piper submitted additional information on its system and reached an agreement with that company.

The FCC approved the waiver, noting that it will deliver strong public interest benefits.

“It will promote safety for railway passengers and personnel by helping prevent train-to-train collisions and identifying unauthorized train movements in work zones,” the FCC said. By making it easier for transit operators to place more trains into service, it will also promote the more efficient use of existing rail lines. Furthermore, it will facilitate the deployment of communications-based safety systems on public transit and short rail train system in a cost-effective manner. Considering the importance of passenger rail safety and the potential for Piper’s ETL system to improve rail safety and efficiency, we find that there is a stronger public interest benefit in granting the waiver than in applying the rule.”

Find the full order here.

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