Consumers and users of mobile devices want their broadband wherever they are, whenever they need it. The more mobile society has become, the more important their connectivity to a network has become. Long term evolution (LTE (News - Alert)) is becoming the preferred method in bringing users high speed connections that can keep their video running without pixels and news feeds streaming uninterrupted, not to mentioned providing speedy email, SMS messaging and quality voice and video conversations.
As captured in a series of related postings in Alcatel-Lucent’s (News - Alert) TrackTalk e-zine railways about how railway communications will look in the future, it is clear they have recognized the need to provide broadband coverage throughout their facilities and along their rights of way in order to enhance their operational efficiency and provide their customers not just constant connectivity but an enhanced user experience. LTE is the technology of choice for providing dynamic communications.
The user experience in fact is the focus of, Customer View - Tecrail Project Provides the Foundation for Adoption of LTE. The article highlights how in urban areas railroad passengers, who clog the bandwidth on macro cellular networks their way to work, will have more capacity available to them and hence a better user experience as railways get LTE up and running. The context for this is that mobile communications has become a necessity of modern life, and traffic is exploding. For example, there are roughly 1.3 billion broadband subscribers around the globe, and the data traffic being generated by those devices is predicted to grow by as much as 18 times by 2015. And, many of those subscribers are demanding continuous connectivity, particularly when they are on their way to and from work on railroads. In fact, the next time you are on a train, try and find somebody without a mobile device.
Railways rely on modern communications capabilities as much if not more than the passengers, and again LTE is ideal for improving operations whether around expansive rail yards and terminals, interacting with switching elements long the tracks or communicating with personnel on the trains. In the posting, Expert View - Planning is Vital to Unlock the Full Potential of LTE, Alcatel-Lucent points out that railways are currently putting LTE through it paces to enhance their operations.
The example provided is comes from Adif, a rail infrastructure manager in Spain with the responsibility of managing 11,000 kilometers (6,835 miles) of conventional mainline networks. They are investing in research on next generation communications, including research on LTE technology that will likely replace their current GSM-R network which is being conducted with Alcatel-Lucent. Worth noting is that part of the project is designed to standardize 4G LTE mobile communications systems for specific railway communication needs with operational efficiency being the main focus. So this is one to watch closely.
As the article notes, Alcatel-Lucent and Adif have identified the unique capabilities railways require, and how they can be optimized to effectively run an LTE platform. Progress to date has been made for instance on radio measurement sectors and the design of them. This is very complex and an important step. It is also validating LTE as a platform for the future, whatever that may hold for the railroad for both operationally and for passengers.
As a companion piece a white paper, Revolutionizing Railway Communications with LTE, is also recommended reading. In it Alcatel-Lucent discusses in detail what it has learned about the benefits of consolidating networks in a migration to all LTE which are also coordinated with other upgrades to railroad operations. In the United Kingdom, engineers have identified more than 50 applications that could possibly run on LTE, whether it’s for ticketing or traffic management.
They also understand that consolidation will not mean a degradation of network performance. In fact, LTE is expected to improve uptime. And, as mentioned in the articles above, it’s not all about the railway processes. Benefits to passengers will be a consistent and continuous broadband experience including giving the railroad a means to improve rail customer service through things like real-time updates on train status, and alerts with instructions in case of emergencies.
Alcatel-Lucent’s technology is capable of delivering end-to-end solutions for the rail industry and its customers. To date, the company has delivered 80-plus mission critical networks for the rail industry. As more railways see the advantages in LTE’s low latency and better interface efficiency and the need for integrated communications, the GSM-R and Tetra platforms will likely be dinosaurs as users demand better connectivity.
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Edited by Peter Bernstein