German railways upgrade their comms tech from 2G to 4G

Ditching GSM-R will help the trains run on time, says Deutsche Bahn

Siemens GSM-R train cab radio. Pic: Joshua Brown
Train radio: New kit means trains can make use of new signalling technologies

German choo-choo chaps Deutsche Bahn are replacing their GSM-R communications technology and has commissioned a consortium of Siemens Convergence Creators and Huawei to sort out the migration of the system across northern Germany's railway lines.

GSM-R is a technology which dates back around 15 years and provides both voice communications and signalling for faster trains. Trains are only allowed to run at higher speeds if they have GSM-R signalling; this means that with increased signalling requirements, the bandwidth for voice is squeezed.

The move to more spectrum-efficient and lower latency schemes such as LTE is an obvious one but will require significant testing as the safety of the train and passengers relies upon it. The upgrade will start by putting Huawei kit into the existing GSM-R infrastructure with a Huawei BSS (base station subsystem) integrated into the already existing message switch centre of Deutsche Bahn. It requires complete compliance with the EIRENE GSM-R and ETCS2/ERTMS standards – that is, seamless interoperability.

"We are looking forward to our cooperation with Siemens Convergence Creators and their international system supplier Huawei. We are convinced of the high quality and innovative technical power of our partners," said Heike Hanagarth, head of technology and environment of Deutsche Bahn.

"We are very proud to have been contracted to design the future of German Railways' network. The project involves a total length of about 12,000 kilometers of the German railway network, which translates into 40 per cent of the operative network of German Railways. Thanks to our long-term experience with safety-relevant networks, in particular in a railway environment, we also have developed our own applications, in addition to our extensive know-how in migrating these systems. Therefore we can supply our customers with the entire package," says Daniel Felicio, CEO of Siemens Convergence Creators.

Kevin Hu, CEO of Huawei Germany stated: "Huawei would like to thank Deutsche Bahn for the great confidence which will be expressed by the selection. The excellent and professional cooperation with Siemens CVC was the fundament for the success. This consortium of Siemens and Huawei will be a guarantee for an absolutely smooth process for the supply, rollout and installation.

With the European railways connected through the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) there is a trailblazing role here for Siemens Convergence Creators and Huawei which could see the technology rolled out to other countries. This will have an impact on spectrum allocation in those countries, such as the UK, where there is not enough frequency allocated to GSM-R to allow it to be upgraded, particularly since it will be necessary to run the two systems in parallel during transition. ®

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