GSMA Mobile Meetings Series: 5G and Railways of the Future
A Green Europe fit for the Digital Age – a slogan which highlights the twin priorities of the European Commission: implementing new policies that enhance Europe’s digital capabilities and digital sovereignty while also making Europe climate neutral by 2050. A key sector that stands to benefit from digitalisation is rail transportation, as automation, remote control and next-generation connectivity could transform passenger and freight rail into an effective, cost-efficient service of the future. Furthermore, a digitalised European railway system could encourage a shift towards rail transportation, which the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility (EUSSM) views as essential towards reducing transport-related GHG emissions given how rail accounted less than 1 percent of the transport sector’s emissions. Indeed, rail is increasingly viewed as the backbone of an environmentally stable, digitalised and multi-modal transport system.
However, the high-end connectivity and digitalisation requirements needed to promote rail as a mode of transport for passengers are not currently present. Reliable and high-performance connectivity could enable mobile work and access to entertainment so crucial to passengers’ choices in transportation whereas the digital transformation of rail operations could improve the operational efficiency and performance of rail traffic through automation. 5G communication services could enable this degree of connectivity for rail, thereby increasing the attractiveness of rail transport in general.
Indeed, the deployment of 5G infrastructure along rail infrastructure is among the EU’s connectivity strategic objectives for 2025. The Commission communication “Connectivity for a Competitive Digital Single Market – Towards the Gigabit Society” calls for uninterrupted 5G coverage of all major terrestrial transport paths, including railways, while the Connecting Europe Facilities (CEF 2) Digital programme aims to catalyse investments for uninterrupted coverage with 5G systems of all major transport paths during 2021 – 2027. Furthermore, CER and EIM, Europe’s leading associations for railways and rail infrastructure managers, published a Strategic Deployment Agenda “5G Connectivity and Spectrum for Rail” that considers what 5G technology could entail for rail transportation. In particular, the SDA proposes a conceptualisation of what a modern travel environment with a digital customer experience could entail: the Gigabit Train Service.
The Gigabit Train Service would be the next generation of rail services for passengers that could be realised: 1-2 Gbit/s connectivity for passengers travelling in a high-speed train across borders. However, much work remains to usher this service, and its requisite gigabit level of connectivity, into existence. Innovations in technology, such as trackside mobile coverage and onboard connectivity equipment, as well as the standards governing their use and protection from cyber threats, are needed. While mobile network operators (MNOs) provided dedicated network infrastructure and technology remain a prime solution to reach these connectivity demands, the business case remains weak as building a rail-dedicated, special-purpose network involves higher costs than typical mobile network designs aimed at area coverage. As these costs will not be met by market forces alone, public funding will be necessary. In addition, passive/active infrastructure sharing arrangements and cooperation models between rail and mobile operators should be explored. Lastly, but not least, the requisite innovations, investments and cooperation models must be facilitated with a supportive regulatory environment.
With this in mind, future dialogue and cooperation between the mobile and rail sectors is essential. The GSMA concurs in the assessment that 5G has the potential to transform rail transportation and as such, participated in the kick-off meeting of the workstream “5G and Rail” organised by CER and EIM in July 2019. More recently, the GSMA organised a discussion between the mobile and rail operators in May 2020.
To encourage a further elaboration of the Gigabit Train Service, this GSMA Mobile Meeting Series roundtable will bring together a group of key stakeholders, including EU decision-makers and industry experts, to discuss among other issues:
- What is the Digital Transformation Vision that Gigabit Train represents for European Railways?
- What level of investments are needed to implement that Vision?
- What is the applicability for 5G connectivity technologies to the Gigabyte Train Service (such as network slicing and beam forming), and what are the barriers to use? Is Technology mature enough to provide Mission Critical communications to objects moving at Ultra High Speeds?
- What kind of Cooperation models between mobile and railway operators and between private and public stakeholders can be explored?
- Which regulatory solutions could be applied to incentivize investments for 5G deployment along rail corridors?
- How would mobile and rail operators address the cybersecurity risks in rail services?
This event is by invitation only and will be held under the Chatham House rule. For more information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
This event is part of the GSMA Mobile Meetings Series which are small-scale, invitation-only meetings that provide a setting to explore, from a broader stakeholders’ perspective, issues that are central to the development of the mobile industry.
Join us for a different take on the main issues affecting the mobile communications industry and its place in Europe’s information society.