Most of the accidents on South Africa’s passenger rail network systems are blamed on poor communications between driver and signaller, Passenger Railway Agency of South Africa (PRASA) has collaborated with Chinese-firm Huawei to solve this challenge.
Huawei has been installing for PRASA a Global System for Mobile Communications-Railway (GSM-R), which ensures that a digital, secure, and dependable communications between drivers and signalers is implemented to avoid accidents and other delays.
The GSM-R brings together the most effective combination of technology, processes, and people. It is used for operational voice and mission critical data communication between train and control centres. Also considered as the standard in railway communication and is widely used across the world.
In 2016, 60 countries on five continents were using GSM-R, with more than 100,000km of lines covered in Europe, and both green and brownfield networks set to continue rolling it out over the next few years.
In 2013, Huawei in consortium with Altech Alcom Matomo was awarded the contract to supply PRASA with the latest digital wireless communication system for their commuter railways.
Since then, PRASA and Huawei have worked in close partnership to deploy the first GSM-R network in South Africa, which spans over 800km and 152 stations across the country.
The Huawei-Alcom Consortium (HAC)’s end-to-end GSM-R solution offers mission critical rail operational voice and data functions which enable train drivers, controllers, signaling engineers and crew members to perform day-to-day railway operations more efficiently and reliably.
Huawei said it will also provide communication services to automatic train protection systems and introduce the ability for semi-automatic train driving capacity in the network, thereby further improving the reliability and safety of the rail operation. In turn, this will significantly improve customer satisfaction and safety for all passengers.
“We are proud to share this historic milestone with Huawei – HAC. This partnership has been instrumental in enabling PRASA to achieve its railway operation improvement objectives to ensure that we deliver dignified rail services to all our people,” says Piet Sebola, PRASA group executive of Strategic Asset Development.
The solution is composed of IP soft switch core network that dramatically improves data transmission efficiency, simplifies network management tasks, reduces operating costs, and support smooth evolution from the legacy to the Future Railway Mobile Communication Systems (FRMCS), which is currently being specified by the International Union of Railways (UIC).
Huawei’s well known distributed base station technology implements quick and flexible GSM-R network coverage in places such as Railway Servitude including tunnels, cuttings and at level crossings.
To enable ultra-long-distance GSM-R radio coverage across provinces, ensure reliable railway operation and facilitate interworking between multi-vendor devices, an end-to-end, network-wide redundancy design was implemented.
Huawei said the base transceiver stations (BTSs) of the access network form a ring topology to protect against faults in transmission links through transmission network redundancy. Additionally, base station controller (BSC) was deployed in each of the three regions (occupied by the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Gauteng) accommodating for BSC remote disaster recovery procedures, further improving the resiliency and reliability of the GSM-R network.
“Huawei’s GSM-R system will help not only the South African railway network enter the cutting-edge digital age, but will also play a pivotal role in the planning and building future railway networks across South Africa and its neighboring countries,” says chairman of the eLTE Industry Alliance and marketing director of the Transport Sector for Huawei Enterprise Business Group, Norman Frisch.
Huawei’s rail solutions cover 100,000km of railway around the world and serve over 50 urban rail lines and more than 60 partners in the railway industry.
With the principle of “Openness, Cooperation and Win-Win”, Huawei is committed in their collaboration with partners for comprehensive and joint innovation in building end-to-end solutions to drive railway companies towards digital transformation.