On 14 – 15 May 2019, UIC held its first global conference on FRMCS, the Future Railway Mobile Communication System. FRMCS is the future worldwide telecommunications system designed by UIC, in close cooperation with the different stakeholders from the rail sector, as the successor of GSM-R and as a key enabler for rail transport digitalisation.
Over 250 participants, 40 speakers, sponsors and exhibitors from 25 countries and from many diverse areas such as the telecoms and signalling domains, regulation authorities and standardisation bodies, railway infrastructure managers and railway undertakings, as well as industry leaders and manufacturers attended this conference, whose aim was to provide detailed explanations and plans for the next generation of telecommunications for the railways.
The two-day programme covered six themed sessions and featured presentations on the visions and perspectives on the topic by key representatives.
The opening session on 14 May included speeches by François Davenne, UIC Deputy Director General; Matthias Ruete, European ERTMS Coordinator, European Commission; Luis Romero, General Director, ETSI; Josef Doppelbauer, General Manager, ERA; Giorgio Travaini, Head of Research & Innovation, Shift2Rail. Keir Fitch, Head of Business Unit Transport, European Commission, provided a keynote speech at the end of the event.
François Davenne highlighted UIC’s renewed commitment to railway telecoms with FRMCS. In 1997, UIC developed GSM-R, an essential part of ERTMS, which went on to become a huge success in Europe and around the world. However due to the need to replace GSM-R by 2030, UIC has been involved in FRMCS studies since 2014 to establish the conditions for the new system. He outlined UIC’s role in this process as a platform for exchange and a standardisation organisation which will develop specifications, guidelines and a technical strategy for the implementation. He said that FRMCS is also part of UIC’s digital vision for the railways and will support new applications for train modernisation, automation and smart systems, as well as asset management and functional models such as RailTopoModel.
“FRMCS will be a key driver for rail digitalisation. It will optimise the infrastructure cost of ownership while improving service quality and available capacity for users, all within the context of complete interoperability.
It is opening the way towards the mobility of the future by breaking down barriers between transport modes and usage. It will be a key enabler for the creation and operation of digital twins.”
The first session on 14 May outlined the history and background of FRMCS since the 1990s in parallel to ERTMS and how it was developed by UIC over the years to become the worldwide reference of railway mobile telecommunications. Presentations were given by ERA, UIC OFG, UIC NMG, Slovenian Railways and SNCF.
Session 2 focused on how FRMCS will be an enabler for digitalisation. Since the initial announcement that GSM-R would become obsolescent by 2030, it would seem that the scope of FRMCS will actually be much broader than just a replacement of the current GSM-R system, with a number of applications taking advantage of the new system such as ATO (Automated Train Control), virtual coupling, smart maintenance, trackside monitoring as well as cybersecurity. Presentations were given by experts from Infrabel, Network Rail, SBB, SNCF, DB Cargo and UIC’s Head of Rail System Marc Antoni.
The third session looked at the FRMCS programme led by UIC on behalf of infrastructure managers and railway undertakings. As it is important to ensure that the definition, standardisation, delivery and migration of FRMCS are conducted in the best conditions, the programme is designed to include focused activities in partnership with key players of the railway eco-system. Speeches in this session were given by UNITEL, ERA, Shift2Rail and Leader of the FRMCS programme Dan Mandoc.
At the end of the first day a special moment was dedicated to celebrate 20 years of ERIG (European Radio Implementers Group) and to pay tribute in particular to three individuals for their work and contribution to the definition of GSM-R: Klaus Konrad, first Chairman of ERIG; Michael Watkins, first EIRENE Project Manager; and Robert Sarfati, current Chairman of ERIG.
The fourth session on 15 May addressed the FRMCS specification and standardisation process. FRMCS is well advanced in the process with two publications: the UIC User Requirements Specification and the UIC Use Cases Catalogue. These requirements will feed into the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) – a standards organisation which develops protocols for mobile telephony – through ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), in order to be part of the future 5G railway network. Presentations were delivered by speakers from the FRMCS taskforces and working groups.
Session 5 raised the importance of the industry’s commitment to the project as standardised products will be needed for early deployment and the involvement of industry leaders will be required throughout the whole process. Speakers represented SNCF, Kapsch CarrierCom, Funkwerk and Nokia.
Session 6 covered the topic of migration, which obviously raises several concerns including the co-existence of two networks, the issue of quality, and the technical and economic concerns for railway undertakings. For this reason, UIC has developed a specific programme dedicated to FRMCS migration which features the design of new on-board telecommunications architecture. Presentations were delivered by speakers from UIC, Infrabel, DB and OBB.
In the closing session, Jean-Michel Evanghelou, UIC’s Head of Telecoms, again emphasised FRMCS as a key enabler for rail digitalisation as it will support new services and applications related to future railway solutions and thus meet new railway needs. He summarised how UIC has organised its work to define, specify and standardise FRMCS with its dedicated groups and task force and highlighted again the importance of collaboration between the railways, the industry, Shift2Rail and the European Commission in order to achieve their common goals. In particular, he emphasised UIC’s strong partnership with ETSI and Shift2Rail, who signed an MoU on 14 May during the conference.
Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, thanked all the speakers and participants of the conference and again stressed the importance of UIC’s continued commitment to the railway sector through this topic. He reaffirmed GSM-R’s success in the world and said FRMCS will continue this trend to support the evolution in railway telecommunications, thus leading to better service, higher quality and optimal assets and costs as well as new services and approaches. He said:
“I am convinced that FRMCS will greatly facilitate the global transformation of the railway system as a whole, and I am convinced we have the team, the model, the intention, all together, to achieve this transformation, which is necessary for the railway sector.”
A dedicated film explaining FRMCS is available on the UIC YouTube channel: