Friday 19 February 2010

GSM-R Frequency Management Group

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The UIC GSM-R Frequency Management Group is a panel of experts representing the GSM-R Operators. Suppliers and different associations/authorities are also invited to the regular meetings. The group met on 9 February in Paris, UIC HQ.

GSM-R is the new railway radio system in Europe, covering the voice needs and acting as the ETCS data transmission bearer. As radio technology, its most important asset is the working frequency spectrum. GSM-R in Europe has an allocated frequency spectrum, 4 MHz duplex, in accordance with the ECC(02)05 decision.

Additional frequencies are now possible to obtain. After a long process, the ECC has allowed GSM-R to be one of the users of the PMR/PAMR bandwidth middle 2009 (see picture 2). It is important to point out that these frequencies are not obtained in a harmonized way due to different stages of GSM-R Implementations. Up to 3 MHz paired can be requested by individual railways. Interoperable applications (Train Radio, ETCS) cannot use these frequencies.

DB Netz has already applied for such additional frequencies such as these that will be used mainly for shunting.

GSM-R by nature can co-exist with GSM (being basically a GSM 2+ technology). This was the concept in the early 90s. Nowadays, public telecommunications are principally based on data transfers.
New technology has been put in place – 3G (UMTS), while 4G – most probably LTE - are knocking on the door. Lately, due to the frequencies refarming policy, licenses have been granted in E-GSM bandwidth, near GSM-R (see picture 2). UMTS900, and soon LTE900, are becoming a reality.

This technology is physically a real danger for GSM-R since out of band emissions as well as signals that are too strong are interfering with the GSM-R Cab Radios, very sensitive mobile stations with 4 m-high antennas.

Several initiatives have been launched at various levels – ETSI, through a dedicated Special Task Force, CEPT WG FM, WG SE), and investigations on the cause of the issue are under study. Based on the results, solutions will be defined (filters – on both sides – better radio modules, etc), and guidelines for cohabitation between the railways and public operators will be prepared.

The UIC GSM-R Operators Group, through a dedicated Ad Hoc Group have prepared in a short space of time a technical report on the issue - document gsmr8700, which will constitute the basis for discussions for a unique railway voice on this very serious issue. Awareness must be created at all levels on this serious issue, which can jeopardize ERTMS data and voice transmissions.

Railways are present and active in all the above mentioned working groups to bring information up to date and to defend user interests.

The meeting centred mostly on this subject; participants in all above mentioned groups have presented the ongoing activities, the aim being to synchronize. In Q3 2010 the results of the above working groups are scheduled to end, and the first deliverables expected to appear. The railways’ involvement and good management of all initiatives are vital to achieve good results. The ERA representative present at the meeting declared his full support for these actions.

The next meeting is scheduled to be held on 22 July.

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