With implementation of GSM-R now well underway on Europe’s railways, and worldwide interest beyond its frontiers, the ERTMS/GSM-R project of the UIC has the task of maintaining the GSM-R specifications, developed under the EIRENE project, managing the UIC roll-out plan for the system and handling issues and problems that arise as the work is progressing.

Through its working groups, the ERTMS/GSM-R project brings together existing and future implementers of GSM-R, assisting the former in realising their objectives and keeping the latter – and the railway industry in general – informed of developments. Close cooperation is maintained with ETSI – through ETSI Technical Committee Rail Telecommunications- and with the GSM-R Industry.

This section provides information on the system and its implementation, including the latest versions of the EIRENE specifications and the full range of specifications.

Why GSM-R?

During the course of their work, the UIC radio frequency group concluded that efforts would have to be undertaken to negotiate, with the European Frequency Committee (CEPT), for the allocation to the railways of a specific frequency band adjacent to the E-GSM band. This frequency band was intended to cover the current railway needs as well as the future railway needs. This request was supported by a pre-study on the usability of either GSM or TETRA systems for the future railway mobile communications. Some studies were undertaken to assess the possible frequency needs (Studies to define a traffic model for three representative areas, London, Paris and Munich, were carried out). In parallel, the advantages and disadvantages of the two potential systems ( GSM or TETRA) were discussed.

Finally a decision was taken to adopt GSM, which was, at that time, the only system in commercial operation with products available. This was a very important consideration as one of the main objectives was, to use a system already proven with off-the-shelf products available, with the minimum of modifications.
However, even at that time it was clear, that GSM could not fulfil all the requirements necessary for an efficient railway service. Therefore it was necessary to identify and add to the standard GSM the Advanced Speech Call Items (ASCI) features.

The request for frequencies resulted in a recommendation from CEPT, to add 4 MHz to the overall GSM-band and to allocate it for railway use only.
This recommendation was later enhanced into a decision, which required the national frequency authorities to free this frequency band, which was already used (mainly by military services), by 2005 at the latest.