Future Railway Mobile Communications System – FRMCS
Railways across Europe rely on GSM-R for voce and data communications including ETCS (European Train Control System) signalling, however GSM-R is predicted to reach end-of-life by 2030. A replacement needs to be found. The International Union of Railways (UIC) having already specified GSM-R have now outlined the Future Railway Mobile Communications System. FRMCS is not intended to simply be a replacement for GSM-R but it’s an opportunity for railway undertakings to harmonize all of their railway related communications needs. GSM-R is ideal for voice and low bit rate data communications, but a modern railway demands broadband capability to support applications such as live video streaming for example. This capability demands a new technology but the UIC have not specified any technology only the applications it must serve. 4G LTE, 5G, Wi-Fi even satellites could be used, but the railway community are in agreement that 5G is the favourite candidate, perhaps with support from Wi-Fi and 4G LTE.
FRMCS is deliberately technology agnostic. The UIC published a document known as the User Requirement Specification (SRS) for railway communications including all of the familiar services available on GSM-R such as driver to signaller voice communications, the Railway Emergency Call (REC) and ETCS signalling etc, but added a raft of other applications that were identified after consulting the railway community. The URS specifies 56 requirements divided into three groups including; Critical Communications, Performance Communications and Business Communications. The URS also details the supporting applications associated with the three groups. This document was in essence presented to the standards organizations including ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) and the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) to identify what standards already exist that could be used and what needs to be developed. That work is well under way. The standards are being written and trials of a 5G system are planned.