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Working and Streaming with Gigabit Data Rates on Trains Thanks to 5G Corridors Along the Tracks

2024-05-14 15:51:00| Source:Ericsson

Deutsche Bahn (DB), network equipment supplier Ericsson, telecommunications provider O2 Telefónica and radio mast operator Vantage Towers have reached a significant milestone in their collaborative effort to establish gigabit mobile and data connections on trains. The "Gigabit Innovation Track" (GINT) project, funded by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport with around 6.4 million euros, was launched in May 2023.

With the help of 5G mobile technology, rail passengers should be able to communicate, work or relax while watching a film on the move in the future, just as they are used to at home. According to experts, this will require data rates of up to 5 gigabits per second per train by the early 2030s. That is multiple times greater than the data rates possible with today's LTE technology.

This means a paradigm shift for the expansion of mobile communications: railway lines need a high-performance 5G connection in addition to the general 5G expansion in the area, as high data rates require large channel bandwidths that are only available at higher frequencies. The 3.6 gigahertz frequencies from O2 Telefónica and the industrial spectrum used in the GINT project enable particularly fast mobile data transmission, albeit with a shorter range than the lower frequencies currently used for 4G mobile communications, with the radio masts covering a radius of around one kilometer.

The GINT project is therefore testing 5G mobile radio coverage via special radio masts along the tracks. The future 5G-based railway radio system, the Future Rail Mobile Communication System (FRMCS), will also need such masts. Around 20,000 new masts will be needed for FRMCS along the railway tracks throughout Germany in the coming years.

They could also form the basis for high-performance mobile radio and data connections for rail travelers. The interim results are promising:

Mobile radio corridors can be realized quickly and easily if the parties involved work together in a goal-oriented manner.

The innovative radio masts developed by Vantage Towers in the project, made from standardized metal construction elements, can be produced in series at low cost and pre-assembled on the ground; there is no need to set up a construction site for each mast.

Standardized bases compensate for slope inclinations etc.; they are anchored in the ground to save time.

One construction team can erect up to three bases per day, and one construction team can also erect up to three radio masts per day. Only a rail excavator is required to erect a mast including antennas on the prepared base frame. Erection from land or by helicopter is also possible.

Thanks to the close and trusting cooperation between the project partners, with Regio Infra Nordost (RIN) as the infrastructure operator, the local authorities and the BMDV as the funding organization, it took less than eight months from the project kick-off to commissioning of the approximately 12 km long test track in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Mobile phone corridors along railway tracks are efficient and resource-saving.

The new type of masts are anchored in the ground, so there is no need to pour expensive foundations. This saves concrete and CO2.

At around 15 meters high, the masts for mobile radio corridors along the tracks blendthe landscape. In many places, there is even no need for the often lengthy authorization procedures.

The masts can be used jointly for mobile radio and the future railway radio FRMCS. There are considerable synergies between the digitalization of rail operations and high-speed data connections for passengers.

Initial practical checks confirm the calculations and preliminary work.

The ultra-modern antennas close to the track transmit the radio signal to andthe train.

The network configuration was successfully transferred from theory to the real test environment. Initial measurements of data transmission on the track give grounds for optimism for further detailed tests.

In the coming months, test runs at speeds of up to 140 km/h are planned with DB's laboratory train, the advanced Train Lab (aTL), to gain insightshigh-speed Internet in high-speed transport. The effects of mobile phone transparent panes will also be investigated: In some of the aTL's carriages, the panes have been processed using an innovative laser process so that they allow mobile phone signals to pass through better.

In addition, multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) antenna technology and beamforming are being tested, in which mobile radio signals are directed towards the moving train and carried along. This allows radio signals to be optimized and the transmission systems to be operated in an energy-saving manner. Tests with the interconnection of several radio cellsone (so-called "combined radio") are intended to show how the switching between radio cells can be reduced and thus - especially at high speeds - even more stable connections are possible.

Daniela Kluckert, Parliamentary State Secretary at the BMDV: "Laying the foundations today for the needs of tomorrow is one of the key tasks of politics. It is particularly important now not to let up on the expansion of mobile communications. After all, the data rates required by travelers will increase significantly in the foreseeable future. Above all, however, train operations of the future will become significantly more digital and therefore more data-intensive. The insights gained in this project will help us to set the course for a needs-based expansion and to master the transition to the next generation of mobile communications seamlessly. Because one thing is clear: years of frustration due to numerous dead spots that can only be closed with an enormous effort must not happen again."

Dr Daniela Gerd tom Markotten, DB Board Member for Digitalization and Technology: "Our passengers already take first-class mobile and data connections for granted. That's why we are working with our partners in the GINT project to lay important foundations for the further digitalization of rail operations and excellent connections for passengers. After all,be able to work or stream while travelling without any problems, more and more data is needed, which can be transmitted faster and faster. In this way, we are strengthening rail as the environmentally friendly mode of transport of the future."

Valentina Daiber, Head of Legal and Corporate Affairs at O2 Telefónica: "For us at O2 Telefónica, the Gigabit Innovation Track project is a successful example of how we are jointly driving forward digitalization in this country. For fast 5G during rail journeys, railway and mobile communications companies as well as politicians must cooperate closely. The cooperation so far has shown that we can achieve a lot if all parties involved focus on a common goal: the development of modern, high-performance network infrastructure for the people and economy in our country."

Daniel Leimbach, Managing Director of Ericsson GmbH: "Our innovative 5G antennas deliver customized mobile communications along the railway. Instead of illuminating the area around a mobile phone mast as usual, we transmit and receive specifically along the railway in elongated corridors. This is made possible by so-called multiple antenna technology (MIMO) and beamforming technology."

Ralf Capito, Director External Affairs at Vantage Towers AG: "GINT is a cross-industry project for the future and a prime example of genuine innovation 'Made in Germany'. By sharing the use of the masts close to the track, we are creating valuable synergies in the network expansion of mobile network operators and the railway - and thus making rail travel more attractive in the long term. GINT can become a model for Europe."