Information published on 2 June 2021 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr eNews.

UIC moderates FRMCS debate on implementing new communication technologies

  • 5G
  • Communications
  • FRMCS
  • GSM-R
  • Interoperability
  • Reporting

Rail telecommunications experts debated on the topic of how the rail infrastructure sector can successfully implement the Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) in a webinar entitled “Managing a flexible and cost-effective transition to FRMCS held on 25 May. The webinar was the first in a two-part series, “How can the rail infra sector implement FRMCS with maximum efficiency?”, organised by the International Railway Summit in association with Frequentis.

Infrastructure owners are now preparing to implement the new 5G-enabled FRMCS standard due to launch in 2025. The technology used in the current GSM-R standard will reach the end of its life around 2030 and will no longer be supported by manufacturers beyond 2035. Now is the time for action.

The debate was opened by moderator Robert Sarfati, Chairman of UIC’s European Railway Implementers for GSM-R (ERIC) Group. Mr Sarfati stressed that future automation and digitalisation of rail, as well as increased efficiency and safety, depend on successful FRMCS deployment.

Keir Fitch, Head of Unit (Rail Safety & Interoperability), DG MOVE, European Commission, also highlighted the potential of FRMCS to unlock the digital railway of the future and explained that a clear migration strategy and cost-effective upgrade path have to be developed quickly. The Commission is leading policy and preparing technical specifications, mandating ETSI to develop standards.

Mr Fitch gave an overview of the Commission’s timeline, from formalisation of frequency allocations in July 2021 to completion of FRMCS TSIs for both onboard and trackside in 2025. Specifications must ensure interoperability, he said, explaining that “interoperability is our mantra across Europe”. Mr Sarfati agreed that “interoperability is the key issue for today and for tomorrow”.

Markus Myslivec, Head of Public Transport Solutions at Frequentis, also agreed that interoperability is essential, particularly since GSM-R and FRMCS are expected to co-exist during migration. Mr Myslivec explored how bearer independence or bearer flexibility could enable interoperability and migration. Mr Fitch noted that the Commission would include a specification for a bearer-independent module in the TSIs in 2022.

Markku Voutilainen, Senior Inspector, Engineering and Environment, Track and Rolling Stock Technology, Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency (FTIA/Väylävirasto), demonstrated how Finland is managing the roadmap to implementation with the help of bearer independence.

Camille Dierick, Head of GSM-R Radio Tuning, Measurement & Validation at Belgium’s infrastructure manager, Infrabel, explained that while is theoretically feasible for all trains to be equipped with a way of accessing all potential frequencies, the technical logistics and installation costs and constraints are difficult to overcome, particularly in respect of cross-border services.

The webinar is now available to watch on demand and free of charge at http://www.irits.org/irswebinars/part-1-managing-a-flexible-and-cost-effective-transition-to-frmcs/.

Part 2, “ How can we ensure efficient FRMCS connectivity in rural areas ?”, will be held on 30 June and is now open for registration. To book your place and to learn more, please visit http://www.irits.org/irswebinars/part-2-how-can-we-ensure-efficient-frmcs-connectivity-in-rural-areas/. Speakers will include representatives from UIC, SNCF Réseau, Adif, SYSTRA, FTIA, and Frequentis.