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SNCF partners with Nokia to prepare for 5G/FRMCS in railway applications

Paris, 28 November 2019

SNCF today announced a partnership with Nokia on 5G development. The objective of the collaboration is to create a 5G Lab that explores rail and non-rail use cases and, to prepare the transition of GSM-R towards FRMCS (Future Railway Mobile Communication System). This lab will be hosted on Nokia Paris-Saclay’s campus.

For several years, SNCF Group has developed a global strategy to support the evolution of mobility and to provide new customer and passenger services, based on digital technology, as an impetus for transformation and performance. The evolution of existing telecommunications systems and the development of new connectivity solutions are at the heart of its digital transformation.

In the railway sector, telecommunication systems are mainly used for signalling functions. To ensure safe interoperability of rail traffic in European countries, a pan-European rail traffic management system (ERTMS) has been adopted by many countries not only in Europe but also worldwide. It is based on GSM-R, which provides a voice link between drivers and control centres as well as transmission of railway signalling information between ground control and trains.

However, evolution of rail operations, with new requirements for automation, remote control or remote maintenance of trains creates the need for telecommunications systems that are more efficient in terms of latency, availability, capacity and throughput. 

As a result, the International Union of Railways (UIC), in cooperation with various rail sector stakeholders, is preparing and designing the next generation Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS), which will replace GSM-R in a few years’ time.

FRMCS will be the common network for all rail radio transmissions. Its specifications will be based on common standards that ensure interoperability of communication and signalling systems on a global scale, as for GSM-R.

5G makes it possible to meet the needs of the FRMCS by 2025 by taking advantage of its ultra-reliable, high-speed, low latency performance to improve existing services and create new ones for rail operations.

In this context, SNCF and Nokia are launching a collaboration to evaluate FRMCS applications in the laboratory and in the field. This will facilitate the adoption of 5G by SNCF and prepare for the transition from GSM-R to FRMCS.  SNCF Réseau, which defines and operates rail signalling infrastructures, has joined forces with the services of the SNCF Innovation & Research Department to explore and analyse all the promises of 5G.

"SNCF's ambition is to create a universal telecommunications system capable of meeting the needs of the rail system of the future. We look forward to working with Nokia to evaluate the performance of FRMCS and industrial applications in the laboratory and railway environment. Nokia's expertise in 5G will be useful to us in helping launch the first FRMCS pilots in France," explains Carole Desnost, Director of SNCF Innovation & Research.

 "This collaboration highlights the full potential of 5G to address industrial use cases where current technologies are reaching their limits.  Nokia, the world leader in GSM-R technology, has already developed unique expertise in the field of rail telecommunications. We are very proud of this partnership with SNCF, which will enable both companies to be at the forefront of the development and deployment of FRMCS," said Matthieu Bourguignon, Vice President Europe, Nokia Enterprise.

About SNCF Group

SNCF is a global leader in passenger and freight transport services, with revenue of €33.3 bn in 2018, of which one-third on international markets. With 272,000 employees in 120 countries, SNCF draws on its foundations in French rail and its extensive experience as an architect of transport services. SNCF has six core businesses: SNCF Réseau (management and operation of the French rail network); commuter transport (mass transit in the Paris region through Transilien, TER regional rail, and Keolis in France and worldwide); long-distance rail (TGV inOui, Ouigo, Intercités, Eurostar, Thalys, and more, and ticket sales through; SNCF Gares & Connexions (station management and development), SNCF Logistics (freight transport and logistics worldwide with GEODIS, Fret SNCF, Captrain and Ermewa) and SNCF Immobilier (management and optimization of SNCF property and land assets).

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