The UIC GSM-R Frequency Management Group is a Panel of Experts representing GSM-R operators and a number of train operators. GSM-R manufacturers, ERA and ECC representatives are also regularly invited and attend the meetings.
The group, which meets four times a year and is part of the UIC GSM-R Network Management Activity, is chaired by Mr Dirk Schattschneider, DB SystemTechnik.
The UIC FM WG met in Stockholm, Sweden at the kind invitation of Trafikverket and AF Consulting Sweden.
As expected, the main subject of the meeting was the status of UIC actions triggered by increasing Interferences to GSM-R from mobile operators. This danger of interference (disturbing the onboard cab radio communications, leading to lack of communication with railway emergency calls and ETCS call drops – resulting in the train possibly having to stop) is an increasing phenomena; which in the near future, with the deployment of 3G and 4G broadband technologies operating in the 900 MHz band, could become a real show stopper for ETCS and general train operations, if not prevented.
UIC has taken many actions in the last years, where apart from researching viable future proof technical solutions, the focus was on creating awareness among European Authorities of this already existing danger.
With the support of CER and EIM, the subject was addressed by the Radio Spectrum Committee (RSC) in April 2011, where high level awareness of this issue was reached for the first time.
Recently, ERA, DG Move and DG Connect have taken important actions to start preventing the consequences of this issue; an action welcomed by the railways, and one which UIC fully supports.
At the end of 2012 two manufacturers (Sierra Wireless and Triorail) declared the availability of new updated interference resistant radio modules. The UIC WG FM took a very rapid decision to test these modules in order to have test results valid for all members, which brings the advantage of validated conclusions obtained in short time and which are cost-efficient.
The tests were hosted in the third week of January 2013 by Trafikverket, to which UIC and the WG FM members expressed their gratitude for the rapid commitment and involvement. The test campaign was coordinated on behalf of UIC by Dick Martens, ProRail.
Preliminary tests results were discussed during the meeting, results that seem to confirm improved performance values, and which will be finalised by the end of February 2013. As these tests are considered the first phase of an overall Test Plan, which also will have a TEN T partial funded component; the final results will be made public after full completion of the Test Plan.
The call for a follow up Field Test campaign host was made, where Network Rail answered positive at first instance – with the confirmation of such a test campaign next week – most probably for March 2013, and where supplementary to the January Lab Test Campaign also a number of other radio modules could be tested, as well as the behaviour of professional filters.
Apart from technical actions, UIC is deeply involved in technical level activities with European frequency authorities. UIC presented a liaison statement at the end of 2012 to the ECC, where based on the UIC study O-8700 version 2, including UIC related tests results (UIC report O-8725), re-opening the discussion on the frequency coordination values between GSM-R and Public Mobile Operator Networks was requested, such that the two can co-exist.
ECC was receptive, and opened a Correspondence group, whose remit and principles will be discussed in Warsaw on 6 February 2013, where UIC and ERA representatives will attend.
The set of actions in this field are done in coordination with ERA with information from DG MOVE, DG CONNECT and the Sector Companies, which have given their full support.
Trafikverket also presented its filter solution at the meeting, where the good efficiency, corroborated with national level coordination with public mobile operators (which is considered to be a good example), and migration plan were discussed.
It must be understood that railway only solutions (updated radio modules, external filters, increasing minimum level coverage, apart from being costly, influence operation during their implementation and requiring a European migration plan) are not the complete answer to solving interference issues. Actions must be taken at authority level – to determine harmonised coordination values, that allow co-existence, and at public mobile operator level – e.g. filtering of their transmitters that are near to railway areas, and positive coordination with GSM-R.
A number of other subjects were also discussed: in-train repeaters, the status of the ER-GSM band – additional 3 MHz that are made available for railway usage, on demand, as well as an interesting presentation of radar sensors application in the field of level crossings.
The next meeting will take place in April 2013.