Railway Operators Moving to IP/MPLS for many Good Reasons

Next Generation Communications Blog

Railway Operators Moving to IP/MPLS for many Good Reasons

By:  Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

As greater demand is being placed on railway operators to deliver services that are more bandwidth hungry, many are starting to make the switch away from the SONET/SDH architectures that have traditionally run their communications network and move toward the more robust IP/MPLS architecture. In fact, Europe is illustrative of this with rail transportation systems in Milan, Paris and Portugal already enjoying the operational and customer experience benefits of making the move.

There are many reasons why railways are using IP/MPLS for their communications networks but two major ones are:

  1. IP/MPLS offers high network availability and resiliency through “Non-Stop” technologies such as Non-Stop Routing (NSR), Non-Stop Services (NSS), Link Aggregation Group (LAG) and Fast ReRoute (FRR).
  2. IP/MPLS enables traffic engineering and isolation, since railway communications cannot afford to fail.

“Even if a single converged communication network is built to support all applications, IP/MPLS can make sure that critical applications always use the same path on the IP network and that several critical data flows are never mixed in the same IP session or path,” noted a recent Alcatel-Lucent blog post, Communications for Transportation: Top 10 reasons to migrate to IP/MPLS.

As the blog notes, in addition to the first two, a single unified and converged IP/MPLS infrastructure can support both mission-critical and less vital services at a lower cost than dedicated legacy networks.

Yet, legacy equipment can be overlaid on top of IP/MPLS for a smooth transition.  Plus, the technology is flexible enough to meet any network topology and answer all needs while guaranteeing high performance and resilience.

As the list continues, it is noted that other reasons to migrate include such things as flexible synchronization options, including the Synchronous Ethernet (SyncE) feature, provide the easiest and quickest way to achieve frequency synchronization and the benefits of an Ethernet-network without changing existing TDM-network applications.

IP/MPLS also delivers multi-tenancy capabilities so railways have the potential to resell network capacity to third parties, and it can support cloud technologies such as software-defined networking and network functions virtualization. And, IP/MPLS is LTE ready since it is a native IP technology. This means it can help prevent cyber attacks through solutions such as Alcatel-Lucent’s Critical Network Infrastructure (CNI), which includes a range of embedded security features like Network Access Control (NAC), encryption, and traffic anomaly detection.

SONET/SDH has stood railways in good stead over the years, but IP/MPLS is most decidedly the future of railway communications.

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