Multi-satellite antenna for railway broadband

November 16, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Multi-satellite antenna for railway broadband
A European consortium is to develop a hybrid satellite communications and terrestrial network to provide reliable 5G broadband on UK trains.

CGI is leading the railway broadband project, commissioned by the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency (ESA) using an antenna from Isotropic Systems that can connect simultaneously to two different satellite networks.

The Satellites for Digitalisation of Railways (SODOR) project will deliver pilot demonstrations of improved network connectivity for train monitoring and passenger broadband in 2022. The project aims to demonstrate how new constellations of communication satellites can fill gaps in terrestrial coverage and provide additional capacity to improve safety and provide travellers with better connectivity.

CGI will work with IT partners Icomera, Isotropic Systems and 5G3i, alongside Network Rail, and rail operators ScotRail, Northern and LNER, to explore how hybrid networks, based on multi-bearer 5G technology, can improve network availability while offering better value for money than existing solutions. 

“Over the coming decade, new-age satellite communications have the potential to transform how we provide data connectivity to railway vehicles, particularly in rural and remote regions. Through our involvement in Project SODOR, we aim to learn more about how modern satcoms can supplement terrestrial wireless communications, and explore the potential value and benefits to passengers and the operational railway system," said Robert Gardner, Senior Innovation Engineer, Telecoms, at Network Rail.

“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. 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,” said Mike Rudd, Head of Telecommunications, UK Space Agency.

“We trust that the SODOR project will demonstrate the unique contribution of 5G integrated satellite-terrestrial connectivity in providing good quality passenger communications for remote regions, solving the problems experienced today by main train users. Thanks to the support of Network Rail and other train operators, this will pave the way for a wider adoption of satellite communications for rail applications, including in the context of the Future Railway Mobile Communication System,” said Rita Rinaldo at ESA.

The project will show network aggregation for 3G and 4G and a roadmap for 5G a choice of satellite constellations dependent on bandwidth and location to ensure a reliable signal as well as tools to optimise network selection based on cost and performance. There will also be Internet of Things sensor solutions to support connected train monitoring.

cgi.com

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