Nokia Networks is going to make zer Vaterland's trains run on time

GSM-R base station deal covers frequency updates and new hardware


Nokia Networks is trumpeting an eight-year contract incorporating the sale of over 2,000 mobile base stations – and a GSM-R frequency band upgrade – to Deutsche Bahn, Germany's national railway company.

The contract to supply the new Flexi base stations to the railway is a good win for Nokia, ousting Kapsch as the major supplier to DB Netze, the infrastructure portion of Deutsche Bahn.

The deal goes well beyond just shipping kit, as Nokia will rip out the old equipment and install shelters, power supplies, and eventually its own kit, and will have to do this without damaging the famous smooth running of German train services.

“We are looking forward to working with Nokia," said Heike Hanagarth, Member of the Board, Technology and Environment, Deutsche Bahn AG. "We are convinced of its technical innovation and quality.”

The new equipment takes in additional frequencies, giving more capacity but will still be limited to GSM data speeds.

Nokia Networks will also support DB Netz AG’s GSM-R network from its European R&D centre in Hungary. DB Netz AG will benefit from new radio functionalities, such as the extended GSM-R frequency band, which provides additional capacity for the ever-increasing data and voice traffic.

GSM-R (R for Railways) is specifically designed for the industry with an improved hand-off system, which will work at up to 310mph (twice the standard GSM speed), and which also supports push-to-talk.

“This is one of our biggest GSM-R contracts so far and will greatly increase our footprint in Europe," said Dirk Lewandowski, Head of Railway Solutions, Nokia Networks.

"The deal involves highly complex operations since the train system cannot be disrupted, and we are proud that the German railway operator recognises our proven abilities and has chosen us as its trusted strategic partner,” he added.

The service goes beyond allowing railwaymen on trains being able to talk to those in control, as it has emergency override controls, emergency broadcast to an area or group, and automatic train control.

In The Register's view it’s understandable that a safety-led organisation like a railway would look to stick with established technology, but GSM-R was ratified in 2000 and grew out of GSM specs which were more than a decade old then. To commit to 2023 seems overly resistant to change when the 4G spec is now rising to meet the needs of emergency ®

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