How 5G will boost digital transformation of rail


5G will act as a catalyst in the digital transformation of railways and will realize the future of connected rail. But what are the areas that 5G will transform the most?  

The global rail transport sector understands the importance of digitalization because of its pivotal role in enhancing customer experience, increasing operational efficiency, and maintaining network security. The future of rail is “connected rail” and being connected requires reliable mobile broadband connectivity powered by 4G and 5G network solutions for faster, safer, and greener travel.

The coming years will unfold a new beginning for railways, from the next generation of connected onboard computing systems to sensors. For rail operators, this growth in digitalization and connectivity will bring greater control over the day-to-day operations and help to provide passengers with a seamless rider’s experience.

To enable this change, GSM-R, the legacy communications technology for railways, will be soon replaced by LTE and 5G. A new framework is known as the Future Railway Mobile Communications System (FRMCS) will modernize train services and improve the bottom line of rail operators.


The Catalyst: 5G

5G is 100 times faster than 4G, it can send and receive information in a 1 millisecond. it moves massive amounts of data extremely quickly with a maximum data rate of 10Gbps. Also, 5G is highly dependable with a reliability of 99.999 percent.


Till now, such performance could only be achieved through wired networks and was a major obstacle when exchanging data quickly with a moving train. 5G just doesn’t connect the train to the network but makes the train the part of the network. This makes it a catalyst for rail digitalization and will open doors for new applications.


Passenger Wi-Fi and Infotainment system:

“Passengers love high-speed internet”, whether it’s on their own smart devices or onboard infotainment systems. With much faster and reliable internet on trains, we can anticipate growth in onboard digital entertainment where an infotainment system will provide passengers with real-time information, timetable updates, important announcements, advertising, and entertainment onboard. To give you an idea, with 5G you can download a movie with DVD quality in less than a second.


Condition-based maintenance and predictive maintenance:

The rail industry is one of the most asset-intensive industries and spends close to 20% of its revenue on asset maintenance for safe operations. The most prominent challenges are increasing maintenance expenditure, the short window for maintenance work, and the unavailability of the right skillsets for remote condition monitoring.


Fleet reliability will improve efficiency and reduce total cost of ownership (TCO), 5G along with big data and advanced analytics solutions such as condition-based maintenance and predictive maintenance will yield big efficiency in maintenance such as reducing the number of failures by predicting asset failure well in advance, minimizing unplanned maintenance and providing a holistic view of reserve assets for rail operators.


5G will lead the railway infrastructure into the digital age with faster, intelligent, data-supported monitoring and maintenance that will help to lower downtime and improve punctuality.


Smart signaling and Autonomous Trains:

Railway signaling will benefit as well from the new ability to move massive amounts of data in real-time.


With 5G, the positioning of fast-moving trains will be more accurate, enabling more trains to travel close to each other over existing tracks. Trains will not only able to communicate with each other T2T (train-to-train) communication, but they will be also communicating with the surrounding infrastructure with T2I (train-to-infrastructure) communications. Edge AI coupled with T2T and T2I will accelerate the evolution of autonomous train operations.


Surveillance and Security:

Governments push for security at railway and underground stations worldwide. Video surveillance plays a significant role in a wide range of security applications deployed in trains and at train stations.


Facial recognition is widely used as a security application where it predicts the probability that two different images contain face data from the same person and confirms that the images are a match or not. These stored images can be as large as 200MB to 1GB and require a fast and reliable data transfer network for far-flung edge devices. With the advent of 5G, there will significant improvement in the performance and accuracy of facial recognition systems.



Facial recognition is not restricted to only security applications, but it is getting introduced into transit ticketing systems and retail outlets. Of late, Russia has implemented Face pay a facial recognition-based payment system in the Moscow metro for a faster checkout experience.



Clearly, 5G is a boon for railways, for both mainline, and metros.


Passengers will not only enjoy high-speed internet but will benefit from next-generation ticketing and security applications. For Railway operators, its better security and operational efficiency, and a pathway to implement new technologies that will further improve the bottom line.


Trunexa is developing edge devices into a variety of applications within the rail sector such as ticketing, video security applications, rail computers, managed/unmanaged Ethernet switches, and much more. 

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