TETRA deployment for rail: meeting the needs of today and the future

Alvin Lim, part of the ETSI Technical Committee TCCE (TETRA and Critical Communications Evolution), explains the increasing relevance of TETRA in the rail industry.

TETRA has been successfully installed on Taiwan’s high-speed rail network.

TETRA has been successfully installed on Taiwan’s high-speed rail network.

For more than two decades the global TETRA communications standard by ETSI has experienced widespread adoption into the transportation sector including rail networks. London Underground was one of the early adopters, along with metros in Paris, Madrid, and Copenhagen. Outside of Europe, TETRA has been implemented successfully in light-rail, heavy metro, high-speed rail, mainline railways, freight, and mining rail networks. While commercial 2G technologies have largely been superseded, private mission-critical land mobile radio (LMR) networks like TETRA are still being deployed, upgraded, and expanded, even at state-wide and nationwide levels. Through ongoing investment, including enhanced security and resilience, through to the introduction of new air interface encryption algorithms with the ETSI standard, TETRA has become even more relevant and necessary for the rail sector. This is helping to ensure that TETRA continues to meet needs for the rail sector today and well into the foreseeable future.

A brief Introduction to TETRA

TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) technology is used throughout the world every day for secure, reliable, and robust critical communication. The TETRA standard was first released by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in the mid-1990s. It was the first European standard developed for a digital trunked radio scheme to address the needs of both mission critical and business critical users. The TETRA standard includes a suite of standards covering different technology aspects, for example, air interfaces, network interfaces and services and facilities. 

Today, key markets for TETRA include the public safety sector, air, rail, road and water transport, utilities, mining, manufacturing and other mission critical verticals.

TETRA for railway operations

The mission critical features inherent in the TETRA standard are well known in the public safety sector. These include very fast call setup times, group communications, emergency and priority calls, dispatch functionality, dynamic group number assignment, direct mode of operation and more. All of these features are well suited for railway operations because rail is another sector where safety, security and operational efficiency are all essential needs.