Keeping railways on track with FRMCS
Railways are often the backbone of travel in any country. Today, their future depends not just on the physical infrastructure that they run on, but also on reliable critical mobile broadband connectivity to create solutions for faster, safer and greener travel. As such, the rail transport sector is increasingly exploring digitalization to enhance customer experience, increase efficiency in their day-to-day operations and maintain network security and data integrity.
What is FRMCS?
Future Railway Mobile Communications System (FRMCS) is a new 5G-based framework, allowing railway operators to modernize train services and help stay on track for business success. Digitalization is triggering innovation in 5G networks and use-cases across every industry segment. Moving to the latest technology will allow the railway industry to benefit from the cost competitiveness of the global 5G landscape and 3GPP standards. FRMCS will be based on dedicated 5G bands for railways, however, for now, the amount of spectrum dedicated to it is not adequate for the needs of modern railways.
Most applications of FRMCS, for example critical video communications, require increased amounts of spectrum to deliver their outcomes. With that in mind, it is necessary to look at what alternatives might exist to ensure effective solutions.
One viable option is to create hybrid networks with 5G network slicing capabilities, which will allow CSPs to supplement the capacity required by railways for their applications on top of the dedicated spectrum.
By enabling RAN sharing (i.e. sharing their spectrum with the rail operator) the service provider can complement the use of its commercial network with railway applications and create a hybrid network. This means the service provider’s commercial network will provide enough coverage and capacity along the track to deliver advanced services – including 5G service for passengers, through either outside-in radio coverage or in-train redistribution via WiFi.
By adding 5G Network and RAN slicing to this hybrid network, the CSP can provide guaranteed Mission Critical Service Level Agreements, even in high-load conditions.
The role of the business model
The transition from legacy rail communications systems to FRMCS is not only technological, but the business model used is also the key to success. To make the most of the technological potential, the business model applied must address questions such as: who will build the network? What are the sharing options with commercial networks? How involved are the rail infrastructure managers in the definition of the use cases? What is the financial model and contract structure? What is the operational model – in-house vs. outsourced?
FRMCS will be pivotal when it comes to railways, as the same technology can serve both operational applications, as well as advanced consumer requirements such as video streaming, video-calling, or gaming – all while a train moves at up to 500km/h. Solutions like Ericsson 5G Slicing facilitates specific use-cases for rail, including mission critical communications, IoT for railway on-board and way-side system telemetry and passenger connectivity. FRMCS will also enable further digitalization, enabling 5G-driven applications such as Automatic Train Operation and European Rail Traffic Management System with the necessary high performance, reliability and security.
Successful business models are based on win-win relationships between all parties, and this relationship is especially fruitful when all actors have reasons to secure a successful adoption of the new FRMCS technologies. Rail infrastructure providers and CSPs must start collaboration in the early phase, exploring both the new technology as well as the business model.
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