Railways See the Benefits of IP Convergence - Customer and Network Operator Perspectives

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Railways See the Benefits of IP Convergence - Customer and Network Operator Perspectives

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

TDM just doesn’t cut it any longer when it comes to rail communications. Railway operations decision-makers the world over are moving from TDM-based rail solutions to a single IP-based communications network that maximizes bandwidth and delivery true multi-tenancy. When it comes to communications, rail solutions in 2013 are all about IP convergence.

“The necessity of an IP network transformation is due to the increasing need to host more services and its ability to converge these onto a single piece of infrastructure to provide a truly multi-service network,” Stefano Pasetti, director of mobile and telecommunications for Milan’s metro rail service provider, Azienda Trasporti Milanese (ATM), said recently in a blog post by Alcatel-Lucent.

“The introduction of VoIP systems and the necessity to guarantee different ‘Quality of Service’ parameters led to a review of what we could do to improve the architecture and technology in use,” noted Pasetti, referring to the rail communications upgrade the firm made in 2010. ATM upgraded to an IP/MPLS infrastructure.

This migration included an upgrade of teleoperation systems, of remote control of signaling system and electrification plants, and the rollout of a digital TETRA for train-to-wayside communications. The upgrade also extended its video surveillance and video recording systems based on IP protocol. The solution now delivers broadband links for office information and Local Area Network (LAN) systems at the company’s offices and depots.

“This communication network is designed to be resilient and to guarantee high reliability for critical services like the new SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system of underground metro Line 3,” he noted. “The surveillance system is now in operation on Lines 1 and 2 and has enabled ATM to install more cameras at more locations, providing better coverage and improving passenger security.”

Upgrading from separated service networks to a converged IP/MPLS multi-service network that provides dynamic communications offers a step-change in operational flexibility and efficiency while reducing the total cost of ownership, according to a blog post by Alcatel-Lucent.

“IP networks, and particularly IP/MPLS, bring safety-related train control communications and operational applications under a single unified infrastructure, which also has the flexibility and capacity to bear new railway applications,” noted the blog.


Portugal’s REFER Telecom also has benefited from a move to a converged IP network.

REFER deployed an IP native technology in 2004 through Alcatel-Lucent, and in 2008 it moved to IP/MPLS technology.

 “The signaling team has acknowledged the improvements,” noted João Figueiras, head of data networks for REFER Telecom.

“In Europe it is common to have completely separate legacy communication infrastructures dedicated to railway signaling, but we wanted to be able to run everything on IP,” Figueiras explained. “This meant we needed our IP network to meet certain communication requirements and be robust against inter-traffic impact while offering a flexible configuration, which is provided by the IP/MPLS technology.”

For rail communications, the future is IP/MPLS. For some railway operations, that future is already here today.

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