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Works in Railway Community

As presented in Chap. 1, ERA, UIC and ETSI are currently working on the evolution of the GSM-R technology, getting feedback from Railways operators and GSM-R Industry Group. Globally, UIC takes care of User Requirements in general, ERA takes care of interoperability considerations at EU level (including spectrum), and ETSI shall be the vehicle for standardisation. The works are presented in this section.

Works at ERA

ERA, as System Authority for ERTMS, leads the essential activities to introduce the new radio system that will replace the GSM-R. Three main motivations lead to think about the future of GSM-R:

  • • Obsolescence of GSM-R is expected for 2030 as there will be no more support for technology. It is then crucial to consider right now the technology that will replace the GSM-R;
  • • The needs in terms of functionality and bandwidth have changed. According to ERA, these changes are slow, contrary to the views expressed by some stakeholders;
  • • A cost reduction is also expressed, essentially the costs in terms of OPEX. It would be wise to avoid having a new niche market with LTE-based railway radio products.

ERA is in charge of TSI-CCS (Technical Specifications for Interoperability— Control Command and Signaling). It is the authority that manages the ERTMS. As per the European regulation establishing the Agency, ERA is the system authority for ERTMS. The necessary provisions in the CCS TSI enabling migration of technologies that can be used by the trackside and on-board from GSM-R to a next generation system will be then introduced.

The identification of the necessary changes to the current legal framework is expected by the European Commission in 2018. The replacing system has to be available for deployment in 2022. The main applications of the current radio system, as defined in the CCS TSI, are considered as reference and co-existence with these applications is mandatory. However, the system shall be capable to support future changes and extensions of the applications covered by the CCS TSI and other TSI’s, as well as railway related applications outside TSI’s.

The overall program plan covers all activities to be performed by ERA that are essential to update the CCS TSI to allow other system(s) in coexistence of GSM-R. The Program consists then of the following steps:

  • • Performing studies on relevant subjects and define options;
  • • Select the relevant option(s) and provide justification (including impact assessment);
  • • Conclude on Requirements and Specifications, to be included in the CCS TSI.

After 3 workshops organized at ERA on the development of rail systems which took place at the end of 2014 and in early 2015, a first report on the evolution of the GSM-R was published in April 2015 [36].

ERA has developed this study to evaluate the possible options for development of railway operational communications in terms of:

  • • Methodology for assessment;
  • • Feasibility of the options presented;
  • • Selection of the most appropriate options;
  • • Possible concepts for rail operators depending on selected options;
  • • Availability of frequencies for railway, analysis for the different applications and possible use of a common bandwidth for different services;
  • • Evolution of terminals and network infrastructure depending on the options;
  • • Highlighting elements for the economic evaluation of the options studied.

Multi-layered decisions can be set up:

  • 1. A cross-sectoral decision at European level on how to manage comprehensively the Public Protection Disaster Relief (PPDR), energy and railway communications;
  • 2. A specific European decision for rail: these decisions are made at the European Commission (DG MOVE) and at ERA. Other stakeholders may also be involved;
  • 3. Decisions at Member States (national) level: Coverage may depend on the particular type of line in terms of traffic and speed.

All the study relying on multi-layered process, considering the different options regarding functionality and so on lead to a first choice is performed for the future of the GSM-R technology. It relies on independent application bearers that run on a range of enabling technologies, including potentially:

  • • Mobile technology enabling data such as GPRS and EDGE technology;
  • • The current and future LTE;
  • • Possibly existing and future Wi-Fi technology;
  • • Possibly satellite technologies (for lines where conditions are appropriate).

ERA is particularly interested in the feasibility to use satellite communication technologies for railway applications. ERA is concerned about the feasibility of existing satcom services and products to meet the requirements of railway voice and data applications, on the geographical part of the European railway network where such satellite technologies could be used and also the economic impact compared with terrestrial solutions.

Other technologies may also be considered such as 5G when it will be defined.

Major points to be resolved are the coexistence between the different communication networks, based on GSM-R and other technologies, the continuity of the voice and data services, as well as the strategy to make the architecture chosen future proof (to reduce costs when a new technology will be added).

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