Mobility in Railways

With the advancement of communications within the rail industry and the proposed move to Future Rail Mobility Communication System (FRMCS) primarily within EMEA, it is important to understand what this means for the rail industry and explore how it will integrate with other technologies that are required to deliver ubiquitous communication. 

As I travel around the world, I am constantly evaluating the technology used in rail. As a consumer I see spotty wifi connectivity, mediocre performance and unreliable service. As a rail communications expert I see airgaps, unsecure networks, etc…. in today’s world and riders are demanding so much more. My perspective at Cisco allows me to see that rail is facing the same challenges other critical infrastructure segments have, and the need to enhance and accelerate digital infrastructure is clearer than ever, and we can get started now. 

At Cisco, we focus on an outcome driven approach, where diverse use cases drive the requirement for multiple access technologies for extended secure networks. In rail like other industrial markets, this demands a future where the end to end solution accommodates multiple and complimentary networks. Wireless and core technologies need to be cross architected so we can truly focus on the business outcomes using safe reliable, agile, and secure communications for our rail systems. 

With the advancement of greater connectivity within rail networks, we can now move data efficiently and securely to applications and enhanced intelligent analytics to provide detailed application performance and outcome visibility. This means more adaptable communications for the workforce, especially in the Hybrid Work world. Safer and more resilient communications converged to run our nations’ critical infrastructure. New products and services can be reliably developed and scaled with our rail operation partners. 

New wireless access technologies working together will be crucial to build the networks the industry is demanding. What factors are involved in the decision process around your private/public wireless system? Well, we have the edge devices- handsets, trains, control points etc which must be connected by secure edge anchors. Spectrum is a critical element and as such tends to dominate all the airtime. The decision to be licensed (if available for private use) as opposed to unlicensed is key but not the only consideration. In fact, we see a multi spectrum, multi technology approach as the most realistic path forward. The radio networks, Public and Private 5G/LTE, WIFI 6/6e, Customized WIFI like Cisco Ultra Reliable Wireless Backhaul (CURWB), Satellite, LoRA, NB-IoT etc and the ability to roam transparently between them also becomes a crucial area of discussion and development. The access layer, Enterprise LAN and WAN capabilities are key components of the system, along with the Core either Private/Public or Hybrid Cloud. All these attributes are decision points that lead us to driving the business relevant outcomes in the IT/OT operational space. 

With this truly diverse Multi-Access-Wireless approach we can now look to leverage the right technology for the right purpose and embed agility into the architecture. Today 5G is seen as the technology that can deliver for a better future in wireless connectivity. Whilst it is true the technology can bring many advantages, not all these capabilities are available today and each comes with its own challenges around Spectrum, radio coverage, and market access, along with deployment models and device complexities for connectivity e.g., SA v NSA environments. Challenges around deployment and open roaming are now allowing cloud based central services e.g., one central management capability for core system services integrated with a local site access deployment model. Additionally, the network needs to be ready for what tomorrow brings such as 6G, 7G, etc. 

The onboard architecture (TOBA) for FRMCS is critical in the ability for FRMCS to adopt this more flexible radio approach integrating radios into the gateway or router to provide connectivity to the multiple wireless access methods. These technologies allow for this seamless capability to become a reality where the correct radio based on policy and capability can be leveraged and full stack observability can be utilized to determine the best communication paths. 

In summary, as an industry we should maintain relentless focus on the outcome and allow that to guide us. There is room and need for development, innovation and rigorous testing as we build for Future Mobility; many of the building blocks of this future mobility are here today and can be deployed in to service now speeding our path as an industry to the future. As an industry we can focus on delivering end to end IP connection and embed agility, security, visibility, and affordability into our networks, which are critical for delivering safe, secure, reliable transportation services. 


Cisco’s Portfolio for Transportation

Cisco Connected Rail Solutions

Cisco Connected Rail At-A-Glance

See Cisco at InnoTrans 2022

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