ETSI's Director-General speaks of the future of railway mobile communication systems at COIT event

Sophia Antipolis, 28 June 2021

On 23 June, as part of the commemoration of the European Year of Rail, the COIT Smart Railways Working Group conducted an online session to publicise the features and advantages of the FRMCS (Future Railway Mobile Communication System). This system will replace the current GSM-R and technologically mark the next decades of a means of transport that is living its best moment.

Marta Balenciaga, Dean and President of the Official College of Telecommunications Engineers (COIT) referred in the presentation of the event to the fact that "the railway is at a turning point in its history, because it is less polluting than other means, because it has an extensive network throughout Europe, and because it converges with the objectives of the European Green Pact and the recovery funds, which are geared towards digitalisation and sustainability.

She added that "this medium is presented today as the great alternative to the road and the plane" and recalled that "some countries are thinking of eliminating short flights to favor the railway and are preparing the reactivation of former night trains".

The President of COIT stressed that, in this scenario, trains must not only offer increasing comfort and safety, but also must communicate with each other in the best possible way. In this regard, she said that "this is where our profession has an essential role". Specifically, she referred to the importance of the FRMCS, "as an example that the management of information in the railway system needs the most advanced and safe technological responses".

Luis Jorge Romero, Director-General of ETSI, explained the origin and evolution of GSM and the importance it had for the promotion of mobile communications at a global level and with its GSM-R version, which was developed specifically for railway communication and which provides the railways with radiotelephony and data line.

As in society, the railway sector has also experienced the evolution of different generations of mobile technologies. Despite the strength and good performance of GSM-R, in the middle of the last decade a debate arose about its continuity as a system taking into account the rapid evolution of these technologies.

The debate resulted in the realization that a change of system was necessary. In this analysis it was seen that to bring it to fruition 4G was already obsolete: on the horizon 5G and even 6G were already emerging, although it was assessed that the adoption of the latter would be too premature.

According to Luis Jorge Romero, the demands are high, and the existence of a standard is not enough, because "it is also necessary to provide the highest quality and interoperability". Both aspects are important, but the last one is crucial because it depends on it that all the elements manufactured by the industry in the railway sector can 'understand' each other.

For this reason, various interoperability tests have been carried out with industry prototypes, precisely to ensure that the new standard applies to all products. These tests will continue in subsequent years and it is planned that by 2023 interoperability tests will be carried out in Germany and France with real trains.

The FRMCS will begin to be implemented in Spain in 2027 and will continue during the 30s and will culminate in 2040. The recovery, transformation and resilience plan can contribute to these objectives.

Listen to the presentations (in Spanish) HERE