5G for South Western main line

EVO-RAIL, A wholly-owned subsidiary of FirstGroup, has launched rail-5G, with the first deployment to be with South Western Railway between Earlsfield and Basingstoke.

The company says rail-5G will be the first multi-gigabit communications service specifically designed for the railway, providing a greatly improved on-board Wi-Fi service, removing bandwidth restrictions and permitting activities such as livestreaming and videoconferencing.

Testing of the technology has been undertaken on the Island line on the Isle of Wight and at Network Rail’s Melton test track. The search for a rail-5G solution began with research at the University of Bristol and progressed to a development with Blu Wireless for the 5G radio portion of the end-to-end train and trackside solution. Other companies involved in the project are Linbrooke Services, Telent and LB Foster.

Trackside infrastructure comprises a series of poles fitted at the lineside, with installation on the South Western main line to start in the summer and due to be completed in early 2022. Simon Holmes, First Rail’s Head of Engineering Digital Communications and Managing Director of evo-rail, told Modern Railways 56 poles are required for the first section. One team will be able to install one pole per night, with plans to deploy up to two teams at once. Power requirements for each pole are low, with cables to be installed to provide connections from nearby stations.

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