An enhanced rail communications network that is easy-to-install

Written by 

Antonio Sequeira

Market Manager Railway

With ethernet now well established as the industry standard for railways, the much spoken about onboard communication functionality has moved from concept to reality. This has been further driven by the rapid adoption of cellular 5G and WLAN IEEE 802.11ad standards, which will enable huge data transfers between on-train equipment and ground infrastructures. IEEE 802.11ad is an amendment to the IEEE 802.11 wireless networking standard, developed to provide a Multiple Gigabit Wireless System (MGWS) standard at 60 GHz frequency, and is a networking standard for WiGig networks.

The maturation and convergence of technologies allied with the enhanced ability of data analytics algorithms means that the volume of data generated in a train, transmitted throughout the train, and further exported outside the train is likely to grow far beyond what is currently observable in the rail industry. This is all good news for operators in a sector that faces stiff competition for passengers, not just from other rail operators but alternative transport modes such as buses, airlines, and autonomous vehicles. By joining the age of the Internet-of-Things (IOT) rail operators can enjoy new revenue streams in the era of Smart Railways.

A reliable and easily maintainable system
When it comes to installing a system, fiber optic solutions are lighter and more flexible than the copper legacy solutions they replace and are therefore easier to handle and install. In comparison to legacy copper cables, fiber optic cables have a much smaller diameter that works well with new train designs. Trains designers can accommodate the fiber optic network in a compact solution and therefore maximise the available interior space for passengers. For retrofit projects where space is literary non-existent, the small dimension of the cables makes it easier to pass through tighter spaces.

Once installed, these fiber optic systems are simple to maintain. One challenging topic that the sector has been facing is the development of field mountable rail-grade optical connectors. However, the connector technology utilised for rolling stock applications has matured and is highly reliable for both in-carriage and inter-vehicle applications. Although qualification processes and related norms and standards (NF F 61030, EN 50467, IEC 61373) are very demanding in the railway industry, there are already suppliers capable of delivering state-of-the-art compliant connector solutions.

Working with a trusted partner 
The rail industry is, by nature, conservative and risk averse. In fact, before something new can be implemented on a train, evidence must be provided showing that it is mature enough. Fiber optic cable systems have already been implemented in various projects. Whereas some of these projects are quite recent, others have used the technology for more than 25 years without any failure report.

Today, HUBER+SUHNER has equipped more than 3,000 vehicles with on-board optical cabling infrastructures in more than ten countries on five continents. Thousands of our optical inter-vehicle jumpers have been well-used by trains operated under all sorts of climatic conditions and are still carrying high speed data traffic as efficiently as when they were first put into service.
No other high-data-rate technology has a better track record than fiber optics and HUBER+SUHNER has certainly made an important contribution to it and will continue to support it with reliable, easy-to-install connectivity solutions