The Managing Director of 4Tel, Mr Derel Wust, recently spoke at an International Union of Railways (UIC) conference on the status and future of GSM-R in Paris 10-11 September 2013.
In a session called “Preparing for the Future”, Derel’s presented a paper “Open Networks usage for Railway systems”. He explained how open-system methods were being used on the NSW Country Rail Network (CRN) to increase safety and productivity while reducing costs. He discussed how the Australasian Rail Association (ARA) had formed a railway spectrum committee to provide the rail industry with spectrum certainty for future systems development.
With radio spectrum harmonised, then safety , business and operations software applications can be developed with confidence knowing the bandwidth and services available on the radios using that spectrum. In the context of where to after GSM-R, Derel discussed how his experience in open systems on the CRN and the swift evolution of technology in society, his view was that a specific technology choice to replace GSM-R possibly wasn’t necessary. Modern systems allow data prioritisation and routing, and voice roaming between networks, as being demonstrated in real use on an operating railway.
His main message was that mandating technology have been necessary in the era when GSM-R was initiated, but in the current era, other options are now possible. Also, while completely harmonised systems at all levels may reduce interconnection complexity, it creates the conditions for limited suppliers, reduced competition and monopoly rents.
An alternative approach for the future is to consider the use of formal interoperable methods between proprietary systems, rather than harmonising systems. An interoperable approach based on formal interface standards will then allow railway organisations to use any technology as cost-effective for their needs.