The new landscape for railway operator communications

Transforming mission-critical communications for safe and efficient mainline, urban and freight operations

The resurgence of rail in recent years continues to accelerate as authorities target railways as the backbone of national, regional and local transport. The  European Union, for example, aims for inter-city journeys of 1,000 km or less to be made by train by the mid-2020s. Substantial growth in rail is the focus in many other regions from the Americas to Asia.

Meanwhile, growing urbanization demands more efficient, more available metro railways. The Global Health Observatory estimates that by 2017, even in less developed countries, a majority of people will be living in urban areas, with city populations growing by 1.84 percent per year between 2015 and 2020. Not only are metro rail operators building more capacity, but timetables are being extended to 24/7 operation.

Against this backdrop, many railway operators continue to manage multiple networks to support different applications. Their legacy networks, built with  circuit-switched Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) and Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) technologies, are becoming obsolete as new applications based on IP/Ethernet technology come to the fore. While many of these IP/Ethernet applications require equally high availability and responsiveness, they are also demanding in terms of bandwidth. Such demands cannot be met by legacy networks, leaving railway operators needing to evolve their communications to be able to succeed in the face of fierce competitive pressures, increased legislation and new passenger demands.

Railway operators have always had safety, efficiency and punctuality as top priorities. Yet the new growth trends bring added pressure on these priorities as well as creating fresh demands, such as a richer customer experience by providing on-board broadband services. Communications technology has advanced extremely rapidly in the last decade. A variety of solutions are available to address all the challenges that railway operators face as they consider how to upgrade their existing communications networks.

The decisions that railway operators make now with regard to their communications networks will affect their operations and business success for decades to come.

This paper looks at how railway operators can address the three major
challenges they face:

  • Maintain safety as the highest priority by:
    • Meeting the availability and reliability requirements of mission-critical applications such as automatic train control (European Train Control System Level 2 (ETCS L2) and CBTC)
    • Deploying new and advanced safety-related applications
    • Supporting non-stop operations through an always-on, secure and reliable communications network
  • Run on-time and efficient operations by:
    • Smoothly migrating to a next generation IP-based communications network to support mission-critical operations with no performance compromise
    • Supporting anywhere machine-to-machine and Internet of Things (IoT) communications to enable, for example, more effective preventive maintenance
    • Deploying standards-based network technology to ensure long-term viability and interoperability
    • Automating trains and operations to achieve higher efficiency and greater capacity
  • Improve the passenger experience and generate non-fare revenues by:
    • Deploying broadband for passengers to improve the journey experience and achieve a competitive advantage
    • Deploying broadband multi-services networks to support more reliable operations

Find out more in this whitepaper by Nokia. 

Nokia will be showcasing its latest technologies at Booth F12 at the 19th Annual Asia Pacific Rail conference and exhibition taking place from 21-22 March at HKCEC, Hong Kong. Admission to expo is free – Get your free expo pass here. 

They will also be hosting a communications workshops for delegates the event. For more the enquiries, please write to

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