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Railway Communications

This page provides information on the background for railway communications, activities in CEPT and the main CEPT deliverables for railway communications, and some information about national best practices to solve critical spectrum coexistence issues.

By implementing the European Green Deal, the EU aims to become the first carbon neutral region in the world by 2050. With the Green Deal defined by the European Commission railway transport becomes the backbone of the mobility strategy in the Green Deal. Rail transport is the mode of mass transport with the lowest emissions. The emission of greenhouse gas by rail transportation is only about 0.5% of the emission produced by the whole transport sector. Radiocommunication is an essential part of the operational communication between the train and the trackside. ITU-R defines four categories of application with a huge variety of spectrum usage starting with inductive loop system in the Hz-range going up to the higher GHz-range for surveillance radar systems at railroad crossings.

 

It is expected that recent technological advances in the fields of e.g. sensing, machine learning, high-precision positioning and wireless communication technology will provide a unique opportunity to the rail sector to perform a technology leap towards substantially improved quality, capacity and efficiency in rail operation. As the longer-term trends towards full digitalisation and a high level of automation in rail operations have a substantial impact on the requirements of related critical applications, it is essential that the dimensioning of dedicated spectrum for rail operation takes these trends well into account.

 

The information provided here aims to give some background on railway communications, the related activities in CEPT and the main CEPT deliverables for railway communications. It also provides some information about national best practices on handling coexistence.

In the recent years, the work within ECC was focused on the compatibility between GSM-R and MFCN. After reception of the ETSI System Reference Document SRDoc TR 103 333 on future GSM-R network evolution, WG FM opened the new Project Team 56 -  Radio Spectrum for Railway applications - in February 2017. So far, FM56 has produced the following documents (see below for details): ECC Report 294, ECC/DEC/(20)02, CEPT Report 74 and CEPT Report 76.

In autumn 2020, ECC#54 and WG FM#96 adopted two new work items for FM56 dealing with the cross-border coordination of railway communication networks in the 900 MHz and 1900-1910 MHz bands.

 

Related information can be found here:

 

1 Main ECC deliverables related to railway communications

  • ECC Report 096: Compatibility between UMTS 900/1800 and systems operating in adjacent bands
  • ECC Report 146: Compatibility between GSM MCBTS and other services (TRR, RSBN/PRMG, HC-SDMA, GSM-R, DME, MIDS, DECT) operating in the 900 and 1800 MHz frequency bands
  • ECC Report 162: Practical mechanism to improve the compatibility between GSM-R and public mobile networks and guidance on practical coordination
  • ECC Report 229: Guidance for improving coexistence between GSM-R and MFCN in the 900 MHz band
  • ECC Report 318: Compatibility between RMR and MFCN in the 900 MHz range, the 1900-1910 MHz band and the 2290-2300 MHz band
  • ECC Report 313: Technical study for coexistence between RMR in the 900 MHz range and other applications in adjacent bands
  • ECC Report 314: Coexistence between Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) in the frequency range 1900-1920 MHz and other applications in adjacent bands.
  • ECC/DEC/(20)02: Harmonised use of the paired frequency bands 874.4-880.0 MHz and 919.4-925.0 MHz and of the unpaired frequency band 1900-1910 MHz for Railway Mobile Radio (RMR)
  • ECC DEC (19)02: Land mobile systems in the frequency ranges 68-87.5 MHz, 146-174 MHz, 406.1-410 MHz, 410-430 MHz, 440- 450 MHz and 450-470 MHz
  • Other railway radio applications (Eurobalise, Euroloop, Level Crossing Radars) are under SRD regulation in ERC Recommendation 70-03 Annex 4. This annex covers frequency bands and regulatory as well as informative parameters recommended for applications specifically intended for use on railways.
  • An Explanatory Paper on 5 GHz RLAN usage in vehicles(incl. trains) is available.

 

2 Background and implementation

The term RMR comprises both technologies, the actual used GSM-R technology and its successor system FRMCS (Future Railways Communication System). ECC/DEC/(20)02 designates the FDD-frequency bands 874.4-880.0 MHz and 919.4-925.0 MHz as also the 1900-1910 MHz TDD band for railway purposes. As considered in ECC/DEC/(19)02, the full band 873-876 MHz paired with 918-921 MHz, the extended GSM-R Band, can be made available on national level. At the point in time when updating this topic page the technical specifications and standards for FRMCS were under development. First trials and implementation of FRMCS are expected for 2025.

 

Besides the spectrum regulatory domain, railway communication systems also need to fulfil railway regulatory requirements as given for instance in Commission Regulation (EU) 2016/919 of 27 May 2016 ”on the technical specification for interoperability relating to the ‘control-command and signalling’ subsystems of the rail system in the European Union”. This regulation is legally binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all EU Member States. This Commission Regulation refers to the EIRENE (European Integrated Railway Radio Enhanced Network) specifications, i.e. on mandatory specifications. The EIRENE SRS (System Requirements Specification) and FRS (Functional Requirements Specification) both define requirements for the network equipment and the user equipment for GSM-R, with amendments published in early 2016 for both specifications.

Similar requirement specifications for FRMCS are under development by the railway sector.

According to information provided in 03/2013, GSM-R (voice and data bearer) was deployed and covers around 68 000 km of tracks in Europe. In Europe, where the total railway network taken into account is about 221 000 km, GSM-R coverage was planned for about 150 000 km according to ETSI TR 102 627, published in 11/2008, also explaining that in September 2007 the network comprised 60 507 km equipped with GSM-R infrastructure, of which 40 918 km were in operation by that date.

 


3 Coexistence between RMR and MFCN

In recent years the work in the ECC was focused on compatibility issues between GSM-R and MFCN. The results of this work can be found e.g. in ECC Report 229 which gives guidance to administrations as well as GSM-R and MFCN licensees on how a better framework for interference-free usage could be reached in the 900MHz range. It defines options for a generic and open framework for the discussions between GSM-R and MFCN licensees as well as CEPT administrations.

Results of various measurement campaigns performed in 2013 and 2014 have been used to understand the behaviour of GSM-R receivers (cab radios and EDORs) in the presence of GSM, UMTS and LTE signals in the adjacent spectrum above 925 MHz. This was complemented by information collected via questionnaires to CEPT administrations on interference into GSM-R caused by MFCN in 2013 and about national coordination between GSM-R and MFCN in 2016.

Improved GSM-R receivers have been specified in ETSI, as part of the process towards improved coexistence, which can be either an improved radio module or an existing one combined with an external filter installed between the train rooftop antenna and the antenna connector of the radio equipment. See ETSI TS 102 933-1 v2.1.1.

National information about best practices to solve critical spectrum coexistence issues between GSM-R and MFCN can be found here: France and Sweden


4 Current activities in the ECC related to railway communications

 

WG FM in Jan./Feb. 2017 opened the new WG FM Project Team 56 -  Radio Spectrum for Railway applications - after provision of the ETSI system reference document TR 103 333 on future GSM-R network evolution. 

WG FM is also aware of the considerations in the coexistence and migration studies commissioned by the European Union Agency for Railways, and the project FRMCS launched by the International Railway Union (UIC) – an ECC LoU partner - to define the successor system of GSM-R.

An overview of the work can be seen in this presentation (October 2018). In a first step, WG FM approved in February 2020 ECC Report 294 - Assessment of the spectrum needs for future railway mobile radio (RMR) communications.

CEPT also received a Mandate from the European Commission to investigate the FRMCS spectrum needs (only for critical applications). The Mandate triggered studies on the feasibility of the 900 MHz range (874.4 - 880 MHz / 919.4 - 925 MHz FDD; 5.6 MHz duplex) while ensuring parallel operation with GSM-R during migration and to study the feasibility of the 1900-1920 MHz band (10 MHz in the lower part of 1900 - 1920 MHz TDD. It also requested to check the feasibility of using  commercial mobile networks, and finally to develop harmonised technical conditions for the usage of these bands. Tasks 1 to 4 of the EC Mandate had been assessed in CEPT Report 74 and Task 5 was assessed in CEPT Report 76 (approved at the November  meeting of ECC in 2020).

In this context, some other considerations may play a role:

  • Synergies with other ‘mission-critical’ networks (e.g. BB-PPDR, see ECC Report 218 and ECC Decision (16)02 and related flexible harmonisation concept. The ETSI SRdoc TR 102 628 already identified a (theoretical) possibility for synergies in its chapter B.4.3. 
  • ERC Recommendation 70-03 on SRD and the Addendum to CEPT Report 59 (SRD and RFID usage in 870-876 MHz and 915-921 MHz, section 2.6.3 recognising early GSM-R follow-on considerations) as well as primary use to be protected (military and ER-GSM). ERC Recommendation 70-03 was updated in line with the new EC Implementing Decision 2018/1538/EU, preserving the spectrum 874.4-880 MHz and 919.6-925 MHz for future railway mobile radio (GSM-R and FRMCS) harmonisation.

 

 

  • Another activity of FM56 is related to WRC-19 Agenda Item 1.11: 'to take necessary actions, as appropriate, to facilitate global or regional harmonised frequency bands to support railway radiocommunication systems between train and trackside within existing mobile service allocations, in accordance with Resolution 236 (WRC‑15)'. Resolution 236 (WRC-15) “Railway radiocommunication systems between train and trackside”. This invited the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference, based on the results of ITU‑R studies, to take necessary actions to facilitate global or regional harmonised frequency bands, to the extent possible, for the implementation of railway radiocommunication systems between train and trackside, within existing mobile-service allocations. It invites ITU-R to study the spectrum needs, technical and operational characteristics and implementation of railway radiocommunication systems between train and trackside. As the work in preparation of WRC-19 could not be finalized, WRC-19 decided to carry forward all further studies related to this topic to the ITU-R Study Group level. Therefore, WG FM#98 entitled Project Team FM56 to prepare CEPT contributions and to contribute directly to ITU-R Working Party 5A on this matter.

 

5 Additional information

 

 

Updated: 12 December 2023, 08:37