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On track to digitalize railways

On track to digitalize railways

Around the world, railways are a critical mode of transportation for people and goods. As urbanization spreads and climate change continues to catalyze a global push for environmental sustainability and shared mobility, demand is rising for the sustainable, reliable transportation that railways provide.

This increased demand will put pressure on railway operators, but it’s also an opportunity for the industry to evolve its operational capacity and efficiency.

The mission-critical dilemma

Railway operations are mission-critical given what can go wrong if the underlying systems fail. The communications networks that are powering railway systems therefore require utmost reliability, performance and security. Because of this, many operators are hesitant to take the risks of evolving or upgrading these crucial communications networks.

The reality is that staying with current wireless and wireline communications network technologies such as GSM-R, SDH and PDH won’t be feasible for much longer. Many other industries are already modernizing their networks and embracing Industry 4.0 technologies like AI and automation — and reaping the benefits to efficiency, safety and operational resilience. To meet increasing demand and expectations, railways will have to do the same. What is more, the railway industry is already moving to the next generation standard for railway communications. While a large-scale deployment of FRMCS (Future Railway Mobile Communication System) is still a few years out, operators can and should already start modernizing their communications networks in areas such as backbone and virtualization to ensure a smooth migration in the near future.

Getting on board with Industry 4.0

Digital technologies like state-of-the-art train control, enhanced automation, artificial intelligence, and advanced data and video analytics have much to offer railways: reduced distance between trains, increased capacity, improved scheduling and punctuality, and — crucially — safer and more efficient operations.

Automated Train Operation (ATO), for example, can enable precision control over trains for better adherence to schedules. Artificial intelligence and scene analytics can improve rail crossing safety. Predictive maintenance can help trains run longer by minimizing unexpected downtimes. And advanced passenger information systems can notify riders of delays and other events in real time.

Key to enabling these modern, more efficient railways are strong communications networks that deliver the reliable, secure, low-latency and high-capacity connectivity that Industry 4.0 technologies and applications demand.

Introducing the next generation digital rail

The Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) is purpose-built for the rail operations of the future. Combining fixed and mobile networks, the 5G-based FRMCS offers secure, flexible, resilient and high-performance support for critical, performance and business communications over an entire railway system. Connectivity features include robust private wireless to trains, powerful IP/MPLS for backhaul and connectivity into the data center, and optical and microwave transport.

Nokia will showcase the benefits of FRMCS at the international transportation trade fair InnoTrans 2022. Running from September 20–23 in Berlin, InnoTrans covers railway technology and infrastructure, public transportation, interiors and tunnel construction with extensive displays and demonstrations.

We’ll be putting on several live demos showcasing the power of 5G for mainline, metro and yards, including emergency call functions, train-to-ground communication, and mission-critical Push-to-Talk (MC-PTT) and mission-critical data communications.

Additionally, we will provide the opportunity for visitors to deep-dive into key focus areas:

  • How railways can transform and transition to FRMCS smoothly and quickly
  • Wireless train-to-ground and converged IP/MPLS backbone, which delivers reliable and scalable connectivity
  • How operators can protect their communications networks against cyberthreats in the Industry 4.0 era, with the latest advancements in security automation, analytics and response
  • Automation in railyards and depots, which can enhance safety, operational efficiency and situational awareness

See the future of rail operations at InnoTrans 2022

To deal with evolving needs and challenges around sustainability and capacity, railway operators must update their mission-critical communications networks to lay the foundation for Industry 4.0-enabled digital rail. At Nokia, we’ve brought our network and industry expertise to the railway — and you can see it in action at InnoTrans 2022.

If you plan to be there, we’d be happy to meet and discuss how Nokia can help solve your challenges. Visit our website to schedule a private meeting with our experts at InnoTrans 2022.

Jochen Apel

About Jochen Apel

Jochen is Global Vice President of Digital Industries, leading Nokia’s endeavors for advancing the digital evolution of the Transportation, Energy, Public Safety and Defense industry segments. Jochen and his team work with our customers to harness the power of networks to support critical operations, intelligently automate processes, and proactively manage assets – achieving the benefits of pervasive connectivity and digital transformation. Whether riding 5G-optimized railways, connecting infrastructure in the world's harshest environments, or working with public safety ministries to better serve citizens around the globe, Jochen and his team of industry innovators will make the journey with you!

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