Technical Committee (TC) Rail Telecommunications (RT) Activity Report 2020

Chair: Robert Sarfati, Union Internationale des Chemins de Fer

Responsible for the development and maintenance of standards related to GSM-R (GSMTMfor railways), and requirements for Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) and Next Generation Radio for Rail (NG2R).

The international railway community has long used the GSM-R (GSM™ 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 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.
  • Provisions 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.

Working closely with the rail industry in Europe and worldwide, we also liaise with 3GPP to standardize the Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) – the successor to GSM-R – where ETSI plays a major role in the technical assessment of user requirements and organizing the transition towards the corresponding 3GPP study (3GPP TR 22.889). Among other aspects, this work considers train speeds up to 500 km/h and the integration of 3GPP radio technologies with a main focus on 5G NR.

In October 2020 ETSI received a standardization request (M/570) from the European Commission, requesting the drafting of new European Standardization deliverables and revision of existing standards in support of Directive (EU) 2016/797 for FRMCS. 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.

During the year the committee continued its close coordination with 3GPP (SA1 and SA6) to define FRMCS use cases and requirements. In August we published a revision to our report on the FRMCS functional and system architecture [TR 103 459], addressing topics including positioning, migration and security. The study explores realization of the FRMCS architecture based on UIC requirements, including consideration of support of multiple onboard/handheld radios and/or multiple trackside transport domains, and the support of border crossing scenarios.

We updated the first part of our report [TR 103 554-1] on radio performance simulation and evaluation of 3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE) as a radio access technology candidate for FRMCS to include simulations at 1900 MHz. We also completed work on the second part [TR 103 554-2], addressing simulations of 5G New Radio (NR) in 900 MHz FDD and 1900 MHz TDD (subsequently published in 2021). These studies will assist with understanding evaluating the expected QoS suitable for FRMCS, taking into account user needs as well as the available bandwidth.

We published a new Technical Specification [TS 103 672] on the use of Session Initiation Protocol with ISUP encapsulation (SIP-I) and other IP based protocols for interconnection of GSM-R networks.

During the year we continued to maintain the GSM-R (GSM™ for railways) standard, enhancing it with new features specific to the railway environment including data and voice communications at very high speeds.

We revised two further specifications: one addressing use of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) on the Network Switching Subsystem (NSS) to Fixed Terminal Subsystem (FTS) interface for GSM-R [TS 103 389]; and the other on GPRS/EGPRS requirements for European Train Control System (ETCS) [TS 103 328].


  • Publication of the Technical Report (TR 103 554-2) on simulations of 5G New Radio (NR) in 900 MHz FDD and 1900 MHz TDD
  • Work under the EC Mandate M/570:
    • Technical Specification (TS) on Future Rail Mobile Communication System (FRMCS)
    • TS on FRMCS; System architecture
    • TS on FRMCS; Part 1: transport stratum, based on 3GPP building blocks and functions - addresses on-network mode of operation
    • TS on FRMCS; Part 2: service stratum definition, based on 3GPP building blocks and functions - addresses on-network mode of operation
    • TS on FRMCS; Part 3: defining train onboard functions and interfaces
    • TS on FRMCS; Part 4: defining trackside functions and interfaces