STRATEGIC DEPLOYMENT AGENDA “5G CONNECTIVITY AND SPECTRUM FOR RAIL”
Developed by EIM and CER, with input provided by UIC, UNIFE/UNITEL and members of the European Rail industry.
The EU has formulated ambitious environmental plans by announcing a new European Green Deal aimed at accelerating emissions reduction. The goal is to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050. In parallel, the Commission plans to implement new policies to make the EU single market a better fit for the digital age, becoming technologically sovereign and recognising the transformative potential of 5G in the field of mobility. Advanced 5G communication services for rail significantly contribute to achieving these ambitions.
In this SDA, two 5G lighthouses are described: The Gigabit Train, which offers a modern travel environment by supporting digital customer experience (reliable and high-performance connectivity for passengers), and Digital Rail Operations (communication services necessary for train movement and rail operation enhancement), which improves capacity and regularity of railways in order to “shift to rail”. The SDA provides guidance for deployment planning and CEF2 funding of 5G mobile infrastructure and services along railway lines in order to implement Gigabit Train and Digital Rail Operations applications.
The SDA also considers new cooperation models since the economic viability of the 5G market to uphold the required bandwidth and coverage levels along railway lines, stations, and tunnels, is rather low – as is the case today with 4G.
Innovation, interoperability and digitalisation will have a positive multiplier effect on the wider (railway) industry. Innovation should be fostered to contribute to making the Single European Railway Area (SERA) more competitive. 5G including FRMCS will enable the digital deliverables such as Automatic Train Operation (ATO) and European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) to be deployed.
EIM and CER members (Railway Infrastructure Managers and Railway Undertakings) consider 5G to be essential for supplying services on railway corridors and advocate providing adequate EU funding for the deployment of 5G under the Connecting Europe Facility (Transport and Digital).
In order to enable current and future rail traffic, a high level of service needs to be ensured on high-speed, main, mass transit and freight lines. This can be achieved by networks that utilise dedicated spectrum. Guided by the EC mandate, ECC and CEPT work on providing two times 5.6 MHz in the 900 MHz band and 10 MHz in the 1900 MHz band. Availability of these bands will enable both mission critical and (some) performance applications as well as the migration of GSM-R to FRMCS. Increased usage of FRMCS is expected to be caused by the introduction of applications such as remote video control and Automatic Train Operation (ATO). Mission critical applications require adequate quality of service: if ETCS experiences a connectivity outage, trains will stop, whilst a reliable railway emergency call is paramount to railway safety.
Passenger connectivity will be provided by mobile network operators (MNOs) through public 5G services. Support of the rail-specific use cases, e.g. a thousand passengers per train with connectivity needs in the Gigabit/s range, requires innovation and continuous improvement of 5G. Cooperation and sharing models between MNOs and railways (IMs and RUs) need to be developed in order to overcome the low economic viability. It is important to leverage sharing of passive infrastructure (such as sites, towers, power supply installations and fibre transmission systems) to increase cost efficiency and potentially allow the use of rail-owned infrastructure.
Sharing active network elements (e.g. 5G slicing) is not per se excluded. Depending on national policy, public services might be used e.g. for regional lines, performance applications or as a backup. However, the use of public networks for rail operation services is subject to national regulatory, liability and legal constraints.
The feasibility of 5G active network sharing is challenging and has to be proven. Critical aspects such as interoperability, QoS, service level agreements, regulations, legal issues and liability requirements must be scrutinised