Wireless Communication in Railways: Issues and Solutions

Wireless Communication in Railways: Issues and Solutions

Traveling by train is all that many of us can afford during the time of pandemic and closed borders. It seems to be pretty comfortable and safe as the high-speed train takes you from point A to point B. But what happens when you decide to check your mailbox or post something cool in Instagram stories? Poor wireless communication in railways is the issue that many travelers come across. It’s especially irritating when you travel a lot for business and need to run your projects on-the-go. What causes the major complexities of poor Internet on trains, and is there any way to handle this?

Why is wireless connectivity across transport corridors so imperfect?

While traveling in a high-speed train, you move between different locations at a very fast rate, and in most cases, you travel through rural areas and remote places where the Internet signal is not as strong as in the city. However, good connectivity is no longer a selling point, it’s an expectation that we have when we pick a connectivity provider. End users shouldn’t worry about all the complexities involved in delivering a good mobile signal. They need to be able to make calls and use wireless data whenever they need it. 

A car moves fast, and the coverage doesn’t always carry with it, especially in rural areas. However, when you travel by car, you can park somewhere to find a good signal and do some urgent tasks. The case is different with a train. It cannot be parked on the roadside, so the only solution for a traveler is to wait until they arrive at the nearest station to make a call or check out something online.

internet speed

Can 5G be a solution?

How can connectivity providers meet the demands of people moving at speed in a sort of a Faraday Cage (a metal box that reflects mobile signals) and spending an amount of time in the catchment area of each mobile cell? 5G could be a solution to this problem. However, a much bigger development could come through the rollout of a trackside network. 

In his recent blog post, Jeremy Haskey, Chief Architect at Nomad Digital, explored the trackside network and its importance in offsetting the high costs that are associated with Mobile Network Operator (MNO) data costs. After exploring the issue of train-to-ground data supplies, he concluded that more should be done to support the rail environment’s needs since the rail sector’s needs differ a lot from what passengers with smartphones demand. 

“While Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks are optimized on the downlink for smartphone users, operational train data – including real-time CCTV images – has a priority for the use of uplinks”

Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS)

One of the best possible solutions to this problem may be the Future Railway Mobile Communication System, which is expected to replace the GSM-R wireless technology and make use of 5G to transmit, receive and use increasing volumes of data, all geared around sustainable transport. 

The introduction of 5G will bring numerous benefits to wireless communication in railways. 

  • First of all, it will provide smartphone users with better service wherever they are. 
  • Secondly, it will help governments improve the infrastructure to support future generational developments and meet the growing demand of using instant connectivity in railways, on the road, etc.

It’s expected that GSM-R will no longer be used by 2030. As stated by The International Union of Railways (UIC), FRMCS will be the primary factor providing for improvement and better digitalization of railways, whereas cellular services will still be used for connecting trains to the wayside.

The FRMCS is still at the development stage. It’s expected to be launched by 2023, with wider adoption of the service to be finalized by 2035. 

For the moment, improving wireless communication in railways by filling the coverage gaps and using the available infrastructure is the most appropriate strategy. Keeping your devices connected to cellular providers with the best signal in the locations where you stay is the primary goal of Keepgo lines. Staying safe and connected while on the road is what all of us are looking for, be it a domestic or international journey.

Top illustration by Storyset