What is LTE-R?

What is LTE-R and why is better for railway communications than Wi-Fi and other technologies?

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- everything RF

Jul 6, 2019

LTE for Railways (LTE-R) is a next-gen communications network dedicated for railway services, enabling high-speed wireless voice and data communications inside trains, from the train to the ground and from train to train. This network supports voice communication among drivers, control center operators, maintenance and other railway staff supporting; push-to-talk group communication, broadcasting, location-dependent addressing and multilevel prioritization; data communication for the train control signaling and other operation and maintenance as well as text messaging during voice communication; multimedia communication for wireless video surveillance, mobile video conference, file sharing, mobile office and passenger infotainment services.

Till now Global System for Mobile Communications - Railway (GSM-R) has been the standard for digital railway communications. But with the forecasted obsolescence of GSM-R technology in 2025, railways’ are migrating to LTE-R as the new standard. 

LTE-R when compared to GSM-R offers several advantages, like low latency, higher data capacity and high security. LTE-R can also support passenger information applications, closed-circuit TV (CCTV), traffic management, ticketing and other services on a single network.

Wi-Fi for Railway Communication vs LTE-R

Wi-Fi is also an option for Railway Industry but it has a number of disadvantages like high risk of interference due to the use of non-licensed bands, requirement of large number of access points and no mobility management support.

LTE-R is less prone to interference as it uses licensed frequency bands, has a coverage range of over several kilometers and supports mobility management that enables reduced handover times between adjacent cells. This makes it a better choice for railway communications.