‘rail-5G’ to be rolled out on part of the South Western Railway network

Posted: 24 March 2021 | | No comments yet

The ‘rail-5G’ solution offers a unique opportunity to improve connectivity for rail infrastructure and customers, greatly enhancing the customer experience.

'rail-5G' to be rolled out on part of the South Western Railway network

evo-rail, part of FirstGroup, is launching ‘rail-5G’, the global first multi-gigabit communications service specifically designed for the railway.

rail-5G powers the on-train Wi-Fi system with over a gigabit of internet data, which will allow passengers to experience unprecedented levels of connectivity, similar to what they would enjoy at home or work. The innovative new system will also offer continuous connection for passengers through tunnels.

Current bandwidth restrictions mean that customers are restricted to using on-board Wi-Fi for simple tasks such as email or web browsing. rail-5G will allow train operators to meet the ever-growing demand for connectivity on the railways by enabling passengers to enjoy activities such as 3D gaming, videoconferencing, live sports, streaming and superfast downloads from any device when travelling by train.

rail-5G requires a fraction of the power of mobile 4G or 5G but communicates data up to 100 times faster than mobile 4G. It will not only deliver a step change to the customer experience but also has the potential to offer an affordable and safe trackside and train system for key operational improvements.

Simon Holmes, FirstGroup’s Head of Engineering Digital Communications and Managing Director of evo-rail, said: “Unlike mobile systems, rail-5G benefits from being designed by railway experts specifically for the railways. The increased bandwidth will, for the first time, provide a significantly improved customer experience for passengers who will now be able to use high-definition video streaming, access office applications, participate in 3D gaming and browse at high speeds, just as they would at home – even when their train is in a tunnel.”

Developed over the last five years and tested on several operational tracks, rail-5G underwent a large-scale pilot on the Isle of Wight’s Island Line. This has proven that the rail-5G solution can consistently deliver over one gigabit per second (Gbps) throughput to a moving train, whereas currently passengers share a fraction of this capacity.

rail-5G is designed to work on the existing infrastructure with future deployments being self-powered through solar and wind energy, with the ambition of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral communications system by 2025.

With the support of Network Rail, evo-rail will roll out rail-5G along 70km of the South Western Railway (SWR) network, starting in 2021. Later in the same year, evo-rail hopes to also add a major intercity network along with several European ventures.

The technology

The first incarnation of rail-5G came in 2016 when Professor Andrew Nix, from the University of Bristol, combined beamforming technology with ultra-high frequency Fixed Wireless Access radio system to demonstrate transmitting almost a gigabit on to a moving train. This led to proving the solution at Network Rail’s test track in Melton Mowbray before moving to the Island Line on the Isle of Wight.

evo-rail delivers the end-to-end trackside-to-train solution using millimeter Wave (mmWave) radio technology at extremely high frequency for extraordinary bandwidth averaging a throughput of over 1Gbps to all trains. This is typically 100 times the available mobile data throughput such that all passengers can enjoy a similar connected experience as at home or work.

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