FRMCS: 2030 Next Step/Stop for train-to-track mission critical voice and data communication

What is FRMCS, the Future Railway Mobile Communication System? Discover the future worldwide telecommunication system

Talking about Railway Mobile Communication System and GSM-R

In spite of what it may apparently seem, railways and the world of rail transport are one of the sectors in which professional communication systems and devices are mostly used. In a nutshell, the latter constitutes fundamental support for the safety of goods and people. While the margins of error are less and the need for coordination is high.

Since the late 1990s, the European authorities have selected GSM-R as their radio transmission technology. This is clear in the technical specification for interoperability (TSI) relating to the control-command and signaling subsystems of the trans-European rail system, with standardization being a key to achieving a harmonized solution.

GSM-R is part of the ETSI/3GPP GSM specifications and applications for specific Quality of Service requirements for a harmonized railway operation. In addition, it operates in the ER-GSM band.

GSM-R has become the standard for telecommunication services. Additionally, it is a key building block within the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS).

ERTMS: the new rail management system

ERTMS is the new rail management system that combines the European Train Control System (ETCS) with GSM-R. As a unique European train control system, ERTMS has been designed to gradually replace the existing incompatible systems throughout Europe. This brought considerable benefits to the railway sector since it has boosted international freight and passenger transport. Furthermore, ERTMS is arguably the most performant train control system in the world. It brings significant advantages in terms of maintenance costs savings, safety, reliability, punctuality, and traffic capacity.

Within Europe, GSM-R is now being combined with the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) to form the basis for an Intelligent Transport System that will provide railways the means to improve the efficiency of rail operations and offer new services to users.

Beyond all European countries, among other places, Saudi Arabia and Israel adopted it. In the Far East, it has been extended to India, China, and Australia, where networks are implemented. This is also the case for South Africa as well as all the North African countries. Since 2016, 56 countries in 5 continents have selected GSM-R for their Rail operation.

The need for FRMCS

The constantly evolving needs for rail transport and the technological development underway in mobile communications are highlighting how this standard cannot be the final answer to the growing needs for data exchange between onboard and ground. For this reason, the UIC in close cooperation with the European Union Agency for Railway (ERA) has initiated working groups and specification activities to define the successor of the GSM-R radio communication system deployed on rails. The result is the Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS).

Firstly, the implementation of the FRMCS standard will allow the transfer of a greater amount of data. Secondly to enable new possibilities in terms of coordination between rail and public transport, smart maintenance, and autonomous or assisted driving. In this way, the demands for greater data traffic and information management typical of modern trains, increasingly digital and interconnected, will be met.

Consequently, FRMCS will be able to lead the railway world towards a new technological and innovative pattern for its professional and operational communications. How? By covering different mission-critical rail communications:

  1. MCPTT = “Mission Critical Push To Talk”
  2. MCData = “Mission Critical Data”
  3. MCVideo = “Mission Critical Video”
What will happen in the future?

The GSM-R Industry Group has indicated that the support of GSM-R products and services is guaranteed at least until 2030. Based on this input, the railway sector has had to mitigate the risk of the unavailability of GSM-R as a radio system for train operation after this date.

Experts need to consider in a global timeline the replacement of GSM-R equipment (onboard and trackside) with new equipment offering potential new services while maintaining interoperability. For this reason, the evolution of the GSM-R is currently under discussion.

The journey towards the future of the railway world has just begun. Dimac Red together with Triorail is on board to support the shared mission of developing and serving next-generation railway products!

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