Technical Committee (TC) Rail Telecommunications (RT) Activity Report 2023

Chair: Pierre Tane, Union Internationale des Chemins de Fer

Responsible for the development and maintenance of standards related to GSM-R (GSM™ for railways), the development of standards for the Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) and telecommunication aspects related to the Urban Rail transportation domain.   

The responsibilities of ETSI’s Rail Telecommunications Technical Committee (TC RT) include:

  • Development and maintenance of ETSI standards related to GSM-R as required by applicable European legislation and its evolution (FRMCS).
  • Collecting requirements from relevant stakeholders from the Rail Transportation domain, including urban, suburban, regional, long distance for Professional Mobile Radio Access systems.
  • Provision of standards for voice, data services and other applications over broadband and narrowband air interfaces for the Rail Transportation domain.
  • Identifying spectrum needs for Rail Transportation domain and proposing appropriate solutions.

The TC RT Chair represents ETSI in the Joint Programming Committee on Rail, set up by ETSI/CEN/CENELEC in 1994. Its objective is to coordinate, plan, programme, promote, facilitate and expedite the production and use of European Standards for the benefit of the railway sector in Europe. In addition, TC RT is also represented in the EU-Rail System Pillar Steering Group as well as the EUAR TWG STA (European Union Agency for Railways Technical Working Group on STAndardisation).

Working with the rail industry in Europe and worldwide, TC RT accordingly liaises closely with the International Union of Railways (UIC) setting the Users Requirements and with 3GPP to standardize FRMCS, with ETSI playing a major role in the technical assessment of user requirements and organizing the transition towards the corresponding 3GPP study (3GPP TR 22.889) and the evolution of the current normative specifications to take into account Rail Users’ needs. Among other aspects, this work considers train speeds up to 500 km/h and the integration of 3GPP radio technologies with a primary focus on 5G NR.

During 2023 TC RT has thus continued its ongoing work on FRMCS specifications. Various standards, specifications and reports in progress during 2023 have included:

  • FRMCS System architecture [to be published as TS 103 764]
  • FRMCS Transport stratum definition [to be published as TS 103 765-1]
  • FRMCS Service stratum definition [to be published as TS 103 765-2]
  • FRMCS On-board functions and interfaces [to be published as TS 103 765-3]
  • FRMCS Trackside functions and interfaces [to be published as TS 103 765-4]
  • FRMCS User Equipment (UE) capabilities related to transport stratum and RF aspects [to be published as TS 103 765‑5]
  • FRMCS/GSM-R interworking [to be published as TS 103 792]
  • FRMCS Radio characteristics [to be published as TS 103 793]
  • FRMCS vocabulary [to be published as TR 103 791]
  • FRMCS Radio performance analysis for different FRMCS deployment options [to be published as TR 103 865]

Work was also launched in mid-2023 on a new study [to be published as TR 104 006] on functionality, protocols, QoS and other aspects of the Onboard Radio Interface (OBrad) for FRMCS.

While the committee continues its work on FRMCS specifications, a new FRMCS standardization request (replacing the former M/570) is expected to be received in Q1 2024.

In the domain of spectrum sharing for Urban Rail ITS and Road ITS applications, JTFIR continued to make progress during the year on a Technical Specification [to be published as TS 103 745] on shared use of spectrum in the 5855 - 5925 MHz band, complementing TR 103 745. Revisions to the existing Technical Report TR 103 580 on the same topic are also underway. Conducted under the scope of an EC-funded STF, this activity is linked to the Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2020/1426 on the harmonized use of radio spectrum in the 5 875 - 5 935 MHz frequency band. Completion of this work is anticipated in Summer 2024.

This work builds on the previous year’s publication [2022] of TR 103 745 that details a measurement campaign to validate interference simulation results, and to confirm simulation parameters used to define the proper mitigation area to protect Urban Rail communications in the 5 915 - 5 925 MHz band.

In cooperation with ETSI TC ERM TG37, the committee is also developing a new Harmonised Standard for access to radio spectrum in relation to radio equipment for applications such as Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) operating in the 5 875 MHz - 5 935 MHz band (EN 303 867).

See the full list of TC RT and JTFIR Work Items currently in development here.

Interoperability testing

ETSI’s 3rd FRMCS (Future Railway Mobile Communication System) Plugtests™ event was organized in July 2023 with the support of the European Commission (EC), the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the Critical Communications Association (TCCA) and UIC.

Held at UIC headquarters in Paris, the event saw independent and joint testing of all FRMCS components using a 5G test network, including test cases described in ETSI TS 103 564. Sessions validated interoperability of a variety of FRMCS implementations using different test scenarios based on the 3GPP Mission Critical Services framework. Based on 3GPP Release‑17, tests addressed capabilities including Mission Critical Push to Talk (MCPTT), Mission Critical Data (MCData) and Mission Critical Video (MCVideo). Over 300 tests were executed between different vendors in more than 80 test sessions, achieving an interoperability success rate of 86%. An observer programme brought together government bodies, mobile network operators, railway operators, users, agencies and regulators to discuss FRMCS progress and deployment challenges. The next FRMCS Plugtests™ event is planned for June 2024.

The capabilities of MCPTT, MCVideo and MCData were further evaluated using 4G and 5G test networks during the 8th ETSI MCX PlugtestsTM event held from the 9th‑13th October 2023 at the University of Malaga (UMA). More than 1500 test cases were executed between vendors, based on 3GPP Release‑17 and Release‑18. The next MCX PlugtestsTM event is planned for Q4 2024.