Delivery Fleets are at the cutting edge of the “internet of things” – just in time delivery, fast response times for service requests, satisfied customers, improving up-time for customer operations, minimizing rolling inventories, productive fleet maintenance, reducing fuel costs … advanced networking and LTE connectivity now provide dozens of ways to be more efficient, reduce costs, and enhance customer satisfaction, resulting in increased profitability.
Over the last few years, we have experienced a very significant advance in the efficiency of transmission over wireless technologies. Broadband capabilities have increased to the point where they have overtaken cable, ADSL for example, and come close to the experiences of home fiber internet (100Mbps)
The evolution of wireless connectivity has given us the means to provide connectivity to mobile environments such as cars, buses, trains, etc., providing a perfect and fertile ground for the emergence of numerous services based on connectivity. The appearance of data over cellular networks and smartphones less than 10 years ago (and the subsequent worldwide boom in applications) may serve as an example. Likewise, broadband in on-board environments will revolutionize the number of applications and services present in transport fleets and other vehicles.
The boom in on-board services is occurring as we speak. During the last 3 years, and in conjunction with broadband, solutions have been developed that range from security applications (CCTV, alarms, controlled start, synchronization with the police, to name but a few), to managing fleets (GPS tracking, communication over data networks, synchronization with road conditions, traffic density, etc.), and driving performance (SAE, speedometer control, fuel consumption, routes, breakdowns, level of occupation, etc.), as well as passenger on-board entertainment, WIFI, messaging, timetables and digital signage.
All these services have one point in common, they need communications. Up until now, there were two types of architectures:
- Firstly, those operating fleets who had decided to independently manage their communications, adding emerging services over their multiservice communications platform.
- Secondly, those operating fleets who had progressively contracted independent services including communications. We will now look at the advantages and drawbacks of both of them.
Multiple Services with Communications
- A service provider controls the whole service. Consequently, the responsibility of how the system operates lies with a single party.
- Each service needs a dedicated device. (Applications SW + Communications.)
- If you want to integrate a new service, you are under the obligation to go to your service provider.
- The devices are not specifically designed for communications. Performance is poorer in areas with low coverage, radio behavior, operating functions, etc., and frequently not approved by the connectivity provider. Who is responsible when there is a drop in communications? The carrier or the service provider?
- Difficulty in integrating multiple services. E.g., on-board entertainment service via WiFi and Internet access over the same radio wave means using the same provider. (Thus preventing you from choosing the market solutions that best meet your needs.)
- Complex maintenance and operation. Management of independent communications with numerous SIMs and devices that behave differently.
- Installations aren’t shared. For instance, having multiple antennas and cabling in vehicles restrict changes (perforations, etc.)
Multiple Services Communications
- A specialized communication device allows both the monitoring and debugging of communication faults. (Coverage, packet loss, network synchronization, etc.)
- Just like a router in an office, an on-board router is designed to interconnect different PCs, with QoS mechanisms, FW and monitoring per port, thus debugging service behavior and the interaction between network components.
- A single and reliable communication device allows the same interface to be shared among various services. (For example, WiFi services for marketing, entertainment and Internet access.)
- Simplifies communications maintenance to a single device and one or various pinpointed SIM cards.
- Sharing of installations: the same antennas are used for different services.
- Offers scalability, so adding new, emerging and future services is simple.
- Allows numerous services to be incorporated with independent services (making it possible to choose those that better adapt to each type of solution).
- Uses devices certified by the carrier, guaranteeing the communication provider is responsible for communication.
- A service provider does not control the communications. However, a multiservice platform has certain mechanisms, such as independent management plans, allowing some flexibility in customization through services.
- Another device is needed in addition to those installed by the service providers. However, each device with communication, provided by a service provider, has an additional cost to include said communications, which is discountable in this scenario.
In short, if the end client is interested in a single service per vehicle and not future expansion, the option of service with communications would be the best. However, if, on the other hand, the client wishes to gradually use the newer and improved technologies available, he is better off with an architecture based on a single communications installation (where new services can be added as they are required).
Teldat, as a corporate communications router manufacturer and a major supplier to large telecommunication carriers that offer multiple services using the company’s devices, supports (by means of its on-board Automotive and Rail platforms) the latest technologies providing multiservice communication environments.
GSM Railway (commonly known as GSM-R) is an “international” Wireless communication standard for railways that allows communication in this environment. Indeed it was a system that was developed for Europe, but due to its success it has been deployed in Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa.
It is the network that has enabled trains and control centers to communicate with each other for well over 10 years. Similar to a standard GSM network, but the “base stations” run along the railway track (not on a traditional two dimensional system) and hence this is what allows trains and the control centers to communicate even when the trains run at over 400 km/h.
GSM-R has been so successful that forecasts say that this network still has some years of growth left, however there is one very important issue, that causes the market to think that the time has come to find an alternative. The issue is quite clear. GSM-R is a 2G network, and it is not IP based. Carriers only have a limited amount of radio spectrum allowed and they are phasing out older, less efficient 2G technologies in favor of newer systems like LTE. That, some people say, makes GSM-R virtually an outdated system that will soon become too expensive (or impossible) to run.
Is LTE an alternative for GSM-R?
Many say that LTE is definitely a very strong contender. However, for LTE to be the adequate successor of GSM-R, certain hurdles have to be crossed. First of all, LTE will have to prove itself as being a telecommunication system that offers railway operators: Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Safety. Without all these four requirements covered, no communication network will be taken on by the railway operators as an alternative to GSM-R.
Once LTE accomplishes reliability, availability, maintainability and safety, it will be a much better system for the railway operators, because not only will LTE be able to cover “core services”, but it will also be able to offer “additional communication services”. The latter are passenger services and business support process services. The non-core services may not be a must to operate, but they will definitely gain in importance if the railway operators want to give their passengers added value services and become more efficient from a business perspective. The railway is not alone in the transport market and they have to fight against the other modes of transport to obtain the desired market share, both in the passenger market and the transport of goods market.
For example, when a passenger selects travelling on a train or on another mode of transport, he/she will evaluate the ease with which a route can be planned (traveler information; schedules, delays, etc.) or the ease with which a ticket can be obtained (e-ticketing). Moreover the passenger will most definitely value very highly the availability of broadband internet access and on-board multimedia services.
LTE, the future of communications for transportation
Apart from this business perspective, there are obviously many specific technical issues which have to be studied in great depth. LTE will not only need to prove that it is capable of giving all the features which GSM-R offers for core services, such as Voice Group Calls, Voice Broadcast Calls, Location Addressing, Data Exchange, etc., but it will have to provide many new core services to the railway operators. However, this is totally logical and it is what is expected when a more modern technology and network is put into place. LTE’s high performance and extended operational range argue well for its dominant role in the future.
In conclusion, what is clear, is that over time GSM-R will become a more expensive network than LTE, because by simply being 2G and not IP based, GSM-R cannot compete with LTE to offer these increasingly important expanded operational and passenger services. Indeed, Teldat has a lot to offer in the area of high performance services with LTE. We have been working on many projects across the globe. From USA to the Middle East across Asia up to New Zealand. Especially, offering passengers broadband connection to the internet, using Teldat’s Wi-Fi devices and special LTE routers for the transport sector. Teldat offers communication equipment which is a core element of the mission-critical services of various transport projects.
Cellular networks allow new services by making Internet access ubiquitous. Their increasing coverage, reliability and speed allow businesses and end customers alike to take advantage of new possibilities, although at the same time they increase dependence on Internet availability for everyday activities.
However certain areas do not receive reliable cellular coverage. A typical case is that of railway networks, which can include long stretches along uninhabited regions in which it is not cost-effective to deploy a cellular network. Even in areas with coverage, passengers’ access to cellular networks is hindered by attenuation in network signals produced by the train’s own body. Some passengers may also face high roaming tariffs to access the Internet. In addition to passengers, M2M units and the train staff could also greatly benefit from network connectivity, but they face the same challenges.
In order to access the Internet aboard a moving train, different approaches can be followed.
The first option is for the cellular network operator to deploy additional cellular capacity along the railway tracks. This solution is rarely cost effective and in any case the signal reception is still obstructed by the coachwork of the train. In addition passengers need a cellular contract with that particular operator in order to enjoy network access.
Another option is to use signal repeaters (possibly even aboard the train). However this is only feasible in areas where there is some signal available to begin with, and network capacity is seriously affected.
A better option is to establish an independent network aboard the train. M2M systems can be connected using Ethernet cabling and Wi-Fi can be deployed to reach every corner. An onboard router controls upstream connections and can combine different network access technologies (including cellular with external high gain antennas, satellite, and Wi-Fi along the tracks) to ensure failsafe and high speed connectivity. Additional routers may also be deployed to ensure higher redundancy.
Having a full network with high speed Internet connectivity aboard the train opens many new possibilities to streamline rail operations and at the same time creates customer loyalty by offering an incentive to travel by train instead of driving or taking a plane.
Among the many new services which can be deployed we can mention some related to the train operation, such as:
• Real-time central access to on-board cameras for security purposes.
• Remote monitoring and management of on-board systems.
But we should not forget services catered to the passenger:
• Internet access (free or at a cost).
• Display of information on internal screens including maps, schedules of connecting trains, and advertisements.
• Access to on-board cafeteria or restaurant for orders.
When deploying various services, the routers aboard the train must ensure that all of them operate independently and do not interfere with one another. The routers must also control that at times when there is limited bandwidth available the most critical services are catered to first. In addition it is important to secure sensitive information using strong encryption techniques, as well as to provide flexible management and failsafe operations.
Teldat has built a range of routers and access points which are especially designed and certified for the demanding environment found aboard a train. The H1 Rail routers and W2002T-n access points combine to offer endless possibilities aboard rolling stock.
In order to remain competitive in an increasing complex market, train operators need to streamline their operations and find new ways to ensure customer loyalty. Having full Internet connectivity aboard the trains is a cost-effective way to quickly improve both these areas.