The project, coordinated by UIC, started in November 2020 and will last for 30 months. The 18 project partners – including Alstom, CAF, DB Netze, Danmarks Tekniske Universitet, Infraestruturas de Portugal, Kontron, Nokia, ÖBB, SBB, Siemens, SNCF, Teleste, Thales, UIC, UNIFE, and Université Gustave Eiffel – represent 11 different countries.
The EU-funded Horizon 2020 5GRAIL project held its first advisory board meeting on 10 June. This online meeting offered an opportunity to present the project and share progress to date with all participants. 38 participants from 22 different organisations attended this first meeting.
Jean-Michel Evanghelou, UIC Deputy Rail System Director and Coordinator of 5GRAIL, opened the meeting by reminding the participants of the overall 5GRAIL project scope. The main objective is to develop and test onboard and trackside prototypes supporting major railway applications such as voice operations, ETCS, ATO and TCMS. Prototype testing will enable validation or amendment of the first set of 5G FRMCS specifications (also called FRMCS 1st Edition).
Dan Mandoc, Head of FRMCS at UIC and 5GRAIL Technical Coordinator, briefly presented the scope and status of the 5GRAIL project, highlighting the fact that 5GRAIL is considered an enabler for train digitalisation and requires a smooth transition from GSM-R technology – widely installed in Europe – to FRMCS technology, with planned obsolescence of GSM-R coming into effect from 2030. Mr Mandoc also presented the general structure of the project, as well as its organisational logic.
Each work package leader presented his or her work package scope, milestones, deliverables and status. Farid Bazizi, R&D Leader at Kontron and leader of the 5GRAIL TOBA prototype development work package, gave a detailed description of all of the activities relating to the future TOBA Box – the telecommunications hub of the digital train – and announced that the first set of specifications for this crucial element, as well as the planned delivery of an initial prototype, would be available at the end of 2021.
It was recalled that UIC had proposed a three-step structured plan for FRMCS introduction to the sector in 2018. This plan involves:
- defining all of the required specifications, ensuring standardisation of useful telecoms building blocks in 3GPP, synchronising all of this work with ETSI and supporting ERA with the TSI 2022 update, as part of which FRMCS will be introduced: activities started a number of years ago and are ongoing,
- building prototypes for the full FRMCS ecosystem and validating the specifications of FRMCS 1st Edition: 5GRAIL
- final FRMCS European trials to finalise the full ecosystem from an industrial point of view and ensure concrete market readiness of FRMCS by 2025: the set-up is still to be defined, with the possibility of considering it within the framework of the forthcoming Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking, the successor to Shift2Rail.
Various members of the advisory board expressed their strong support of 5GRAIL and the FRMCS programme in general and expressed their satisfaction with the progress made in respect of the various activities.
Mr Evanghelou concluded by stating that the scope of the 5GRAIL project is huge and is particularly impressive in terms of timing, considering the major disruptive leap in technology from 2G to 5G, and explained that a key condition for success is that the excellent cooperation to date between railways and manufacturers be continued in a spirit similar to that demonstrated for GSM-R for more than 20 years, which resulted in worldwide adoption of this technology in the railway sector.
The next advisory board meeting will be held in November 2021, corresponding to the delivery period for major deliverables.