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Calling all European railway operators: the time to migrate to LTE is now!

This blog is by Wolfgang Nagel at Nokia Networks. Twitter: @WolfgangNagel1

For more than 15 years, the communications standard for railways in Europe has been the European Rail Train Management System (ERTMS) together with GSM-R to provide the radio transmission of the signaling information. But change is underfoot given continuous technical developments and passenger demands to stay connected.


The need for higher bandwidth is growing and railway operators are keen to introduce new services such as closed-circuit television (CCTV) or Internet for passengers. However, until the new technology can be used for transferring critical signaling information, concept development and standardization work by the European railway standardization bodies ERA and UIC is required. And this work is scheduled to be finalized by 2018. So should train operators in Europe really wait that long with their investments in the future? Is there really no way to benefit today from the advantages of modern mobile broadband technology?

When considering the market for mission-critical communications, particularly in the area of ​​Public Safety, LTE is the de facto standard. For First Responders in particular, it is vital to carry out communication in real time via mobile broadband, e.g. with wireless video to a remote control room. 3GPP is actively standardizing new functions in LTE that are important for applications in this area, such as group call or push-to-talk services. The takeaway for railway operations is therefore clear: migration to LTE in the mid-term is really the only option given the overarching safety requirements.

Our concrete recommendation to all European railway operators is to start introducing LTE in dedicated parts of their networks so that train operators can gain the needed experience. The existing GSM-R networks will anyway undergo modernization for the transmission of safety-critical information during the next decade, but it would be inadvisable to simply wait for the next 10 to 15 years until the next generation of broadband technology will be standardized for the railroad. Following an overlay concept, existing GSM-R sites can easily be upgraded to LTE so that LTE services can be introduced for both personnel and passengers in order to enhance safety, operational efficiency, and passenger travel experience.

Train operators outside Europe might decide already today to also use LTE for safety-critical data transmission and can opt immediately for LTE-based railway communication. 

Need help with your LTE migration strategy?

Nokia, recognized as the world leader in broadband technology, is distinctly positioned to enable mobile broadband communications with a seamless migration strategy. As the pioneers and market leader in GSM-R solutions, we cover over 73,000 kilometers of GSM-R tracks globally. Nokia Networks is the LTE/TD-LTE supplier to 13 out of the 15 largest telecommunication network operators by LTE subscriber count and has a proven end-to-end LTE solution for mission-critical communications in the fields of Public Safety and Railways.

Unique to Nokia is the ability to enhance LTE coverage and network efficiency by hosting Nokia Network in a Box (NIB) on the trains themselves. The Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) capability of the NIB platform allows localizing both communication and content, which greatly improves performance and reduces network load. Through partnership with Harris Corporation (HRS), NIB integrated advanced group communications capabilities are powered by BeOn®.  BeOn® incorporates the familiar features of trusted land mobile radio (LMR) like push-to-talk, with more advanced features that today’s first responders have come to expect such as situational awareness, group messaging, location tracking and streaming video.

Seeing is believing

Join us at the upcoming UIC GSM-R World Conference in Paris, September 15-16, to see a live demonstration of our recently introduced solution Nokia Network in a Box in combination with the BeOn communication suite application provided by our partner Harris Corporation. We will demonstrate LTE-based mission critical services such as group call, location tracking, push-to-talk, real time text chat and more.

Learn more about the event here and read more about Railways Solutions and Public Safety Solutions.

Please share your thoughts on this topic by replying below – and join the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks using #NetworksPerform #mobilebroadband #GSMR #LTE.