The project will demonstrate the use of 5G in the area of transport and logistics. Specifically, it will explore how hybrid networks, based on multi-bearer 5G technology, could improve network availability and offer better value for money.
Dubbed Satellites for Digitalisation of Railways (SODOR), it aims to pilot demonstrations of improved network connectivity, for both train monitoring and passenger broadband in 2022. The consortium will be led by CGI, the Canadian business consulting services firm.
Hybrid satellite comms
The goal is that Isotropic Systems’s antenna will offer multiple simultaneous connections to satellites in any orbit, including NGSO (non-geostationary satellite orbit) constellations that companies such as SpaceX, OneWeb, SES, and Telesat are launching. This is to address the issue of improving terrestrial connectivity on trains, which suffer from unreliable or limited coverage along sections of track.
“We are excited to be part of a project that will significantly increase the attractiveness of rail travel compared to other modes,” said Isotropic Systems CEO John Finney. “Isotropic Systems’ next-generation terminal will greatly improve the on-board experience for passengers and provide vital operational and safety improvements for operators.”
“Our collaboration with ScotRail, Northern and LNER means that passengers across the UK will see the benefit. Whether they are working from the carriage instead of the office or taking advantage of improved entertainment options; we hope this initiative will help facilitate a new era of mass rail transit.”
As well as improving the reliability of passenger Wi-Fi, the hope is to generate accurate real time information on train location and carriage capacity. Also, in theory, a greater number of trains could remain in service by predicting maintenance requirements in real-time.
CGI’s consortium also includes Icomera and 5G3i, for IT, alongside Network Rail, and rail operators ScotRail, Northern and LNER.
The UK Space Agency cited the project as an example of the National Space Strategy in action:
“Satellites play a vital role in keeping people connected, but they can also help keep us safe by providing reliable communications links between trains, drivers and operators,” said Mike Rudd, Head of Telecommunications, UK Space Agency.
“This new project is a great example of the National Space Strategy in action, drawing on CGI’s expertise in satellite communications and working closely with our partners in the ESA to demonstrate how this technology could help supercharge mobile connectivity across the national rail network.”
Image: Isotropic Systems’ Multi-Link Terminal
See also: Seraphim backs Isotropic to unblock satellite comms bottleneck