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Sensors and Connectivity series: How can rail harness a more powerful internet?

5G is the next generation of mobile networks, following on from the current 4G technology. It will use a combination of frequency spectrum bands: low-band 600-Megahertz (MHz) spectrum for reliable national coverage, mid-band 3.5 Gigahertz (GHz) spectrum for reliable capacity and consistency, and 28 GHz millimetre wave (mmWave) spectrum for high-performance cases, including hotspots. 5G New Radio (NR) is a new air interface for 5G.

5G is expected to have data speeds greater than 1 Gbps (up to ten times faster than 4G), ultra-reliable lower latency communications (URLLC) and increased bandwidth when it is set to launch in the UK by 2020. The increased bandwidth afforded by 5G will facilitate high capacity machine-to-machine communication. Internet of Things (IoT) enabled devices, such as connected and autonomous vehicles, currently on the 4G network will benefit from a faster, less-burdened 5G network. This could lead to a rise in the use of personal IoT devices in homes and offices.

The UK government has issued a call for proposals to enhance mobile connectivity for rail passengers, as part of its 5G network strategy.
The low latency of 5G could provide benefits for train control and signalling applications. 5G has the potential to move towards improved data access to and from rolling stock, enabling more intelligent trains. Information can be transferred with greater speed between infrastructure and rolling stock through Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) and Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) technology. This could provide train fleets with industrial predictive maintenance and real-time on-board information, saving time and money.

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