Field test passed: First FRMCS/5G test environment for the railway system in Germany successfully set up and tested
In the Ore Mountains, DB Netz AG, Nokia and Kontron Transportation GmbH have set up and successfully tested an end-to-end FRMCS communication network. This represents a significant milestone in the implementation of the future and 5G-based railway radio standard. The system has been set up since Q4/2021 and provides the basis for testing various use cases of digitalized railway operations via FRMCS in the future.
Digitale Schiene Deutschland (DSD) is striving for a far-reaching digitization of the railway system. This requires new use cases and brings with it more demanding requirements for data communication. The future 5G-based railway radio standard FRMCS (Future Railway Mobile Communication System) is an essential basis for the technologies thus introduced into the railway sector, such as artificial intelligence, state-of-the-art sensor technology and high-precision train localization. It will complement the current GSM-R radio system during a migration phase and replace it in the long term. The technical composition of the FRMCS railway radio system and further details on the structure of the communication network can be found here.
Nokia is providing the 5G technology for the project in one of the world's first FRMCS test installations in the Digital Rail Test Field in the Ore Mountains. Kontron Transportation is implementing the Mission Critical Services (MCx). While the 5G technology realizes the data transmission, MCx provides the required services required by the digital applications. Both solutions jointly form the FRMCS system and are based on the current 3GPP Release 16 mobile radio standard. DB Netz AG provides the railway test field, including the infrastructure, as part of the "Digital Rail Germany" sector initiative: A total of eight radio sites along a 10 km railway line, masts and fibre optic connection as well as the location for the server infrastructure in the data centre at Scheibenberg station.
In the second quarter of 2023, the set-up and evaluation of the FRMCS system was completed. This milestone marks the end of the first phase of the joint project between Kontron, Nokia and DB Netz. In the second phase of the project, the network will be operated by the three partners until the end of 2026 and made available as a test environment for other projects. Two projects using the setup this year and in the coming years are 5GRail (a Horizon 2020 project), which aims to validate the FRMCS v1 specifications) and 5G-RACOM (a Franco-German research project investigating the use of hybrid networks combining private railway 5G connectivity with public mobile networks in the Ore Mountains). Further expansions and updates in the FRMCS test field will be realized in the coming years according to the requirements of the various projects.
The focus of all activities will be on the further development of FRMCS itself. The aim is to gain new insights for the standardization, implementation and, prospectively, for the rollout of the new railway radio system. This is an important step to support the introduction of the upcoming standard. At the same time, the FRMCS test environment should also enable future railway applications of Digitale Schiene Deutschland (such as highly automated driving or driving at flexible intervals, so-called moving block) to be tested based on FRMCS. Details on the activities to date, the expansion and commissioning of the FRMCS network are also published in an article in the June issue of Signal+Draht.
The MCx architecture and investigations of the MCx service level were covered in depth in a publication (Field Evaluation of MCx Implementations for the Future Railway Mobile Communication System) at the IEEE VTC conference in the workshop "5G for Railways".