Technical Committee (TC) Rail Telecommunications (RT) Activity Report 2021

Chair: Robert Sarfati, Union Internationale des Chemins de Fer

Responsible for the development and maintenance of standards related to GSM-R (GSMTM 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 international railway community has long used the GSM-R (GSMTM for railways) standard, an enhancement of GSM technology. Now there is a need to address the harmonized telecommunication requirements for tomorrow’s railway systems.

The responsibilities of our Rail Telecommunications technical committee (TC RT) include:

  • Development and maintenance of ETSI standards related to GSM-R as required by applicable European Legislation
  • 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 propose appropriate solutions.

In 2020 ETSI received a standardization request (M/570) from the European Commission, requesting the drafting of new European Standardization deliverables for Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS), the successor to GSM-R. This request has led to the adoption of an intensive Work Programme that will lead to the development by TC RT of an extensive set of new Technical Specifications for FRMCS.

Working with the rail industry in Europe and worldwide, the TC RT accordingly liaises closely with the International Union of Railways (UIC) setting the Users Requirements and 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 consider 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.

The committee also continues to maintain the GSM-R standard, enhancing it with new features specific to the railway environment, including data and voice communications at very high speeds.

2021 saw the publication of two new deliverables:

Complementing the first part of our Technical Report [TR 103 554-1] on radio performance simulations of 3GPP LTE as an access technology candidate for FRMCS, TC RT published the second part TR 103 554-2 that addresses simulations of 5G New Radio (NR) in 900 MHz FDD and 1900 MHz TDD spectrum. Together, these studies will assist with understanding which radio technology could be more suitable for FRMCS, taking into account users’ needs as well as available bandwidth.

TS 103 368 V1.2.1 is a revision to our Technical Specification on commands necessary for mobile radio equipment operation on railways.

Meanwhile TC RT has continued its ongoing work on FRMCS specifications in response to M/570. This activity is currently focused on the FRMCS architecture [TS 103 764], as well as transport stratum [TS 103 765-1], service stratum [TS 103 765-2] and a preliminary study on interworking between FRMCS and GSM-R [TR 103 768].

In cooperation with ETSI’s Technical Committee on Intelligent Transport Systems [TC ITS], ETSI RT JTFIR is investigating solutions for shared usage of the 5,9 GHz spectrum band between Road ITS and Urban Rail ITS application requirements.

Conducted under the scope of an EC-funded STF, these activities are 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.

During 2021 further progress was accordingly made by JTFIR on a Technical Report detailing a measurement campaign to validate interference simulation results  and to confirm simulation parameters which would be used to define the proper mitigation area to protect Urban Rail communications in 5 915 - 5 925 MHz band. The outcome of this work will be the baseline for the development of:

  • A revision of TR 103 580 on investigations to identify solutions to protect Urban Rail ITS in 5 915 – 5 925 MHz, considering detection methods and mitigation techniques as well as an update of simulation parameters.
  • A Technical Specification detailing requirements for Urban Rail ITS/Road ITS shared use of spectrum for safety related applications (TS 103 745).

See the full list of current TC RT and JTFIR Work Items here.

Held in June 2021, ETSI’s Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) Plugtests™ event saw 100 worldwide participants executing around 350 interoperability test cases in 65 test sessions, achieving a 95% success rate.

The virtual event’s goal was to validate interoperability of a variety of implementations using different test scenarios based on the 3GPP Mission Critical Services framework with a focus on the rail specific features.

The remote event tested railways-oriented capabilities such as Functional Aliases, Multi-talker, MCData IP Connectivity and User Regrouping as defined in 3GPP Release-16.

Also in June, ETSI Director-General Luis Jorge Romero discussed the industry’s evolution towards FRMCS at an online event conducted by the Official College of Telecommunications Engineers (COIT) Smart Railways Working Group.