News from BWCS

64,000km Track-side Wireless Network Gets Major Boost

Thu 10 Jun 2021

India’s much trumpeted plans to build a national network of track-side LTE masts has moved a step closer to reality. Yesterday, the Indian government approved the allotment of 5Mhz of spectrum in the premium 700MHz radio band for use by the railways. The spectrum will be used to introduce LTE-based Mobile Train Radio Communication (MTRC) along major routes.

The new chunk of spectrum will help Indian Railways fulfil its ambitious plan to leapfrog GSM-R technology and plump instead for the more advanced trackside connectivity solution LTE-R. The company is aiming to roll out a network of masts in four separate phases. These will eventually cover a total of 64,000km of track. The plan is that the LTE-R network will provide high-speed, on-board internet connectivity right across the subcontinent’s vast sprawling rail system.

An official statement from IR, welcoming the award of the 5MHz of spectrum read “The purpose of the LTE for Indian Railways is to provide secure and reliable voice, video and data communication services for operational, safety and security applications. It will be used for modern signalling and train protection systems and ensure seamless communication between loco pilots and guards.”

The operator also said that the new wireless system will enable the railways to operate new services such as remote asset monitoring, particularly of coaches, wagons and engines as well as monitor live video CCTV images from the trains. In all, IR reports, this will help ensure efficient, safer and faster train operations.

According to The Hindu newspaper, spectrum charges for IR will be based on a formula developed by the Department of Telecommunications and recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. In 2019, the TRAI recommended the allotment of spectrum to the railways.

Last year, the Indian Railways received a significant boost in spending as outlined in the government’s 2020-2021 Railway Budget. Speaking at the time, Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, said that her administration will make sure that IR gets funding to build a huge network of solar panels to run alongside its tracks. This, she underlined, will provide cheaper electricity to Indian Railways and help it to become a net-zero carbon producer by 2030.

So far, a 650km trial section of track has been equipped to offer LTE-R services. Based on the feedback from trials on four different sections of this track, IR plans to float tenders for the entire network. Phase 1 will cover the “Golden Triangle” which accounts for 75% - 80% of India Railways high-use and high revenue tracks – some 10,000km.

On-train WiFi services, trackside networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi and on-board entertainment will be the main subjects of BWCS’s WiFi on Trains Conference later this year. For information on the 2021 event, please contact  .

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The 2021 conference ( ) is sponsored by Icomera, Nomad Digital, RADWIN, Westermo and GlobalReach Technology.

Also, for Wireless Suppliers who may be interested, BWCS has launched a brand new conference on the growing market for private wireless networks and 5G services at Ports – please see where the full programme is now available.