Future Railway Mobile Communication System FRMCS

In 1994, ETSI GSM standard was selected by UIC as the bearer for first Digital Railways Radio communication System and the railway specific functionalities were included in the ETSI standard: GSM-R was born.

After issuing the first stable specifications (EIRENE FRS an SRS), the first tender was launched in 1999, and the first countrywide operation started in 2004. The EU adopted the EIRENE FRS and SRS as basis for mobile communication between train and track, and included these specifications in the legally binding Technical Standard for Interoperability (TSI Control Command).

Today, over 100.000 km of railway lines are operated by GSM-R and this amount is still growing. In addition, the Industry has given commitment to support the GSM-R technology until at least 2030.

As telecommunication standards are evolving and given the long time needed between selecting a technology and making it ready for operation, time has come to start the work on the successor of GSM-R.

UIC decided in 2012 to set up the Future Rail Mobile Communications System (FRMCS) project to prepare the necessary steps towards the introduction of a successor or GSM-R. These first steps started with evaluation of the actual situation, included several studies on Users’ needs and ended with the delivery of a first set of “User Requirements Specification”.

After this initial step, enhancement of the project organisation took place with the setting of a Project organisation including a Steering Group and three Working Groups, namely:

  • Functionality Group (FRMCS-FU)
  • Spectrum Group (FRMCS-SP)
  • Architecture and Technology Group (FRMCS-AT)

The scope of the FRMCS project covers the following elements:

  • Provide an appropriate replacement of EIRENE FRS
    • In principle 1 for 1
    • Investigate usage of GSM-R and delete unused functionalities
    • Investigate future needs and add potential new functionalities
  • Provide a set of technical preconditions for the successor of GSM-R
    • Architecture, interfacing
    • Migration strategy and technical impact
    • Spectrum needs
  • Indicate and/or perform studies for further improvement or opportunities
    • Sharing infrastructure, spectrum or other resources with other Stakeholders
    • Combination with and/or usage of commercial non-specific user applications and equipment

As UIC is not only a European organisation but a worldwide body, the specifications have the objective to be a worldwide standard and it has been decided to incorporate other UIC areas than Europe in the project scope.
The document “User Requirements Specification” (URS) version 2.0 is the latest version of these requirements aiming at gathering all Railways needs and becoming the basis for future work on standardization. This standardization work will take place within the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) through the Rail Telecommunications Technical Committee of the European Telecommunications Standard Institute. (ETSI TC-RT).


Piero Petruccioli

Robert Sarfati