Discover how 5G communications could transform your metro operations
5G is great news for smartphone users – millions of us are already benefiting from near-instant page loads, ultra-fast gaming and the chance to watch films on the go. But did you know that 5G could also help to make your metro operations smarter, leaner and greener?
A new 5G solution for urban rail
The phenomenal speed and capacity of 5G makes it an attractive choice for metro operators as they race to boost the performance of their networks. That’s why Thales is introducing a new solution: 5G-based communications for railway operations.
“5G has unique characteristics that make it ideally suited for railways,” says Lorraine Durieux, Product Line Manager – Connectivity Solutions for Railway Operations at Thales.
“We’re working on 5G because it is going to drive performance improvement and the introduction of new use cases in urban rail – especially for train-to-ground communications.”
Currently, trains connect to the wayside using radio systems such as TETRA and Wi-Fi. These technologies are reliable, but they lack the speed and bandwidth needed to handle applications such as high-definition video and massive Internet of Things (IoT) networks.
“One of the game-changing aspects of 5G is that it can handle enormous amounts of data,” says Durieux. “For example, if you want to send CCTV data from the train to the control centre, you will be able to do that instantly. 5G also enables innovations such as smart maintenance using data from massive sensor networks. This is hugely useful for operators.”
There’s good news for passengers too. “The main benefits will be better services and improved reliability” Durieux says. And using the dedicated 5G infrastructure along the tracks, public operators’ networks can be made available for individual entertainment, with guaranteed coverage in mobility.
One of the big attractions for metro operators is that with 5G, you only need one radio network to do everything. In fact, 5G can be used to support any current or future use case that requires data transmission – from safety-critical applications such as CBTC (communications-based train control) signalling, to on-board applications including video, security, maintenance, driver telephony, intercoms and passenger information.
5G made easy
Thales’ 5G solution puts ultrafast broadband within reach of metro operators everywhere. “We provide a complete architecture,” explains Durieux. “At the wayside, our solution comprises a backbone and 5G cellular infrastructure. And on the train, we provide a secure communications gateway to manage connectivity.”
Below ground, dedicated 5G infrastructure is used to transmit and receive radio signals. But above ground, metro operators are free to tap into existing public 5G networks for non-safety critical applications. That makes for a leaner system with less hardware to maintain. “It’s a hybrid approach,” says Durieux. “The mobile communications gateway on the train is really important, because you can make use of both dedicated networks and public operators – radio traffic is automatically steered to the right application.”
Enabling a seamless migration from legacy radio to 5G is a cornerstone of Thales’ offer. “One of our differentiators is the fact that we can orchestrate the whole network,” emphasises Durieux. “That includes taking care of multi-tenant infrastructure in hybrid systems. This is really important, because it’s not only about network orchestration but also about service orchestration across the network”.
As well as making it easy to deploy 5G, Thales makes sure to keep everything secure across private and public infrastructures. “Everything we do is Cybersecured by Design,” says Durieux. “That means cybersecurity is built into the solution from the earliest stage. We secure not only the devices, but we also protect all the data passing through the network.”
Technologies such as 5G will play an increasingly important role in building ridership and enabling green, low-carbon journeys in and around the world’s cities. “It’s all about optimising the infrastructure,” concludes Durieux. “What we are doing here is to show that 5G is now a viable option for our urban rail customers – and we can help them to take advantage of that.”
WHAT DOES 5G MEAN FOR METRO OPERATORS?
Faster connections: 5G is between ten and 100 times faster than 4G. This enables real-time video-surveillance, with simultaneous access to trackside and onboard camera feeds.
Internet of Things (IoT): thanks to massive Machine-Type Communication (mMTC), 5G makes it possible to connect millions of objects and sensors. This has the potential to address numerous railway use cases, transforming maintenance, providing real-time condition monitoring and paving the way for the Internet of Smart Trains.
Network slicing: a 5G network can be split up into virtual network “slices”, each with a specific performance characteristic. This makes it possible to achieve multiple goals simultaneously on the same network, such as transmitting and receiving train control data, monitoring IoT devices, and managing huge volumes of video data.
Improved cyber security: with 5G native features (stronger cryptographic algorithm, stronger user privacy protection, subscriber-level security policy, unified authentication, enhanced roaming security)