European Railway Agency - ERA

Making the railway system work better for society

Radio Communication

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Global System for Mobile Communications – Railway (GSM-R) is a radio communication system offering a wide range of voice and data services needed for daily operation of railways. GSM-R provides telephony, SMS and data services, as do public GSM networks.

GSM-R facilitates the communication between train driver and traffic control centres, by providing specific features such as group communication, location dependent addressing, priority levels, railway emergency calls, shunting communication.

From the year 2000 onwards, GSM-R has been introduced all over Europe as a common standard for railway operations essential to interoperability, as well as in many other parts of the world. Expansion of the GSM-R implementation is still ongoing.

GSM-R is the data communication bearer for the European Train Control System (ETCS), in particular for ETCS Level 2 and Level 3. GSM-R is fully defined in ETSI standards.

GSM-R networks have to coexist with other public mobile network technologies such as 3G and 4G, which may result in a risk of issues due to interferences. ERA, together with DG MOVE, DG Connect and the railway sector, is well aware and mobilised about this critical issue.

Following the cycle of meetings of the GFUG (GSM-R Follow-Up Group), a document presenting different aspects of the coexistence between the railway communication system based on GSM-R and public mobile networks was elaborated as a synthesis of the GFUG activities. This document (DV81/RSCOM 15-60), endorsed by both the RISC Committee and the Radio Spectrum Committee, presents an overview of different aspects of this coexistence, from a regulatory point of view (including references to CEPT reports) and including some technical solutions (referencing amongst others the ETSI TS on improved radio receivers). The document proposes a way forward for managing the coexistence, to be seen by Member States as a guidance on best practices (e.g. not part of any legislative procedure).

The involved suppliers have indicated that they will support GSM-R technology and GSM-R products at least until 2030. Taking into account the time needed to deploy another radio system and to mitigate the risk of GSM-R obsolescence, the Agency has launched a project to investigate the options for a smooth transition from GSM-R to a next generation system. The Agency will advise the European Commission on the possible impact of the introduction of a new railway radio communication on the current EU regulatory framework.

ERA, in its role of system design authority for the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS), is leading the project on the evolution of the railway radio which has a direct impact on the Control Command and Signalling (CCS) Technical Specification for Interoperability (TSI). This means that the main applications of the current radio system, as defined in the CCS TSI, are considered as reference and co-existence with these applications is mandatory. However, the next system is expected to support future changes and extensions of the applications covered by the CCS TSI and other TSIs, as well as railway related applications outside TSIs. The provisioning of mobile communication services that are usually offered by public networks to passengers (e.g. internet access) is out of scope.

This project is composed of four workstreams: functionality, technology, spectrum and transition. ERA encourages active participation in these workstreams. Contact us for any contribution to the project or request for more information

Many activities are performed in close cooperation with the railway sector and standardisation bodies. ERA coordinates the activities by means of a common deliverable roadmap. The functional requirements are drafted by UIC (in the frame of FRMCS project), whilst detailed technical specifications are drafted by ETSI. The outcomes of this cooperation will be used as input for the project and supplemented by studies as appropriate.