Overcoming public network black spots with high performance trackside antennas

Written by 

Antonio Sequeira

Vice President Market Manager Railway

Reliable Wi-Fi connectivity has become a common expectation when travelling by train, with passengers expecting the same level of connectivity on board that they experience while at home. As trains become more and more connected, the demand for high data throughput is on the rise. Operational systems on trains have also developed significantly, such as live streaming of 4K/8K CCTV, while the train communication systems require stable connectivity to function too.  

These increased services are driving the need for higher data rates, which can be difficult to provide in areas with poor cellular coverage from the public network. This is a particular challenge in tunnels, metros and other underground rail services, as well as rural areas where the public cellular network simply cannot reach. To provide the guaranteed connectivity needed, dedicated trackside infrastructure is key.  

This is why we have launched the SENCITY┬« Spot-SR 2x2 Wi-Fi MIMO antenna, the latest upgrade to our Spot-SR antenna family. Designed for use in trackside applications, such as metros or for CBTC, our new antenna offers an incredible 50% increase in antenna gain compared to its predecessor, ensuring connectivity no matter the environment. 

High gain, small size 

As trains are requiring more data throughput, operators need an antenna that offers a high performance, while still being small and compact. The SENCITY Spot-SR 2x2 Wi-Fi MIMO antenna takes up only 80 mm x 100 mm x 36 mm in space, and thus offers the best size to data throughput ratio available in the market. By using the 5 GHz band, it is perfect for trackside and on-board mounting where space is limited.  

The size of the antenna allows for a simple and quick installation, saving time, resource and costs. We also have antenna accessories that can be purchased alongside the solution, such as brackets, which allow the antenna to be tilted and positioned in the most efficient way, and adaptors for pole or beam mounting. This means the antennas are incredibly flexible when it comes to their location, and can be installed on poles and walls as needed. Once in place, the antenna can improve data throughput rates in both existing and new installations.  

Proven for underground rail services 

Even in countries with good public networks, we still see areas which lack signal penetration and require an antenna to fill in the gaps. The radiation pattern of the SENCITY Spot-SR 2x2 Wi-Fi antenna was specifically designed for railway trackside applications to enable both stable and high data rates.  

The antenna was originally created for use on the subway system in Toronto, where it successfully provided connectivity for live streaming of CCTV. The antenna was installed in a very tight space behind the destination sign at the front of the train. Previous existing antennas would not have been able to fit into this small space. The compact antenna made the solution viable, and had comparable data throughput performance to antennas that are four to five times larger. This greatly reduced the installation effort and required mounting space.  

Our clients complained to us that other trackside antennas in the market had  high gain levels, but often had very sharp beam angles that cause data loss issues when the train passed the trackside antenna. To ensure our antenna provides constant connectivity, we have designed it to feature optimised side lobes that ensure a smooth transition when trains pass each other. This negates any signal loss, and guarantees reliable communication at all times.