Why should European railways migrate to FRMCS?

Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS), source: UIC

By 2025, European railways will migrate to the new standard of communication known by the acronym FRMCS. Speaking at the online RailTech Infra Forum 2020, UIC Head of Telecoms & Signalling Jean-Michel Evanghelou has clarified why this change is vital for the rail sector.

“There are two important elements to understand. The first one is that GSM-R for industry reasons is going to obsolescence. This means that it is an old technology, which started in the 1990s. When we look at the history of telecoms, GSM, which is a base for GSM-R, was invented in the 1980s, and the industry has been supporting it for many years. Now it is becoming outdated. Therefore, the first point is an obligation of the main providers of the solution that will stop its maintenance by 2030,” Jean-Michel Evanghelou said at the RailTech Infra Forum 2020 that took place online on 17-18 June. According to him, this reason is very important for the rail sector as it needs to plan investments in the new infrastructure for the coming years.

5G is a reason

The second reason is related to the further development of telecommunications. “2G and GSM-R were good solutions for ERTMS. And they are still great solutions for railway operations. However, the change to 5G will provide a lot of new possibilities, in terms of capacity, reaction, applications. With 5G, we are opening the possibility of digitalisation,” Mr Evanghelou specified. The launching of the 5G technology is a base for the Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) standard that will replace GSM-R. “We definitely go to 5G,” he added.

Migration to FRMCS

Jean Michel Evanghelou also noted that the migration to the FRMCS standard will be a very difficult and long process. For better understanding, he gave an example of the GSM-R implementation. “We started GSM-R in a serious way in Europe in 2000, which means 20 years ago. And we are still equipping some countries in Europe. There are cycles in railway infrastructure investments, and it is quite long to equip all the lines in Europe. Today you have around 150,000 km of lines equipped with GSM-R. It is quite impressive,” Mr Evanghelou explained.

Jean-Michel Evanghelou, source: Juliette JEM via UIC

As for the possible timeframe, the UIC expert in telecommunications reminded 2025 as a planned deadline. In fact, this process needs more time. As a result, some countries are already planning to migrate to the FRMCS standard later, even by 2035. “There are a lot of things for planning and investing, you need time. Therefore, it’s really important to start as soon as we can,” Mr Evanghelou noted.

Prototyping FRMCS

Currently, the International Union of Railways (UIC) as a standardisation body is working on FRMCS. In April it issued two specifications for the future standard. Moreover, UIC is planning to prototype FRMCS. “Very recently, we had some very good news. We will be capable to put together a global programme for prototyping FRMCS with all the relevant suppliers and railways,” Jean-Michel Evanghelou said.

According to him, this will be performed as a part of the European programme called Horizon 2020 and will be funded by the DG Connect, the telecommunications division of the European Commission, within the 5G Rail financing programme. “Within the next 30 months, we will start to prototype and to test the specifications that we have put together with all the key suppliers and railways. It will be the first time, at the end of this process, that we will have live trials with the real products and applications that we foresee for FRMCS,” Mr Evanghelou summed up.

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Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko was editor of online trade magazines RailTech.com and RailFreight.com.

1 comment op “Why should European railways migrate to FRMCS?”


I just see tech-focussed fools that are so eager to introduce new tech stuff. Yeah, we need 5G! New tech! Wow! Must-have! Taxpayers: we MUST have your money, and we want it NOW.

Why on earth do these idiots focus on tech b*llshit? Haven’t they ever learned that customer performance is key? That happy customers pay the costs & provide you an income? What went wrong within the railway sector? Happy dreams about taxpayers money? Dream on…

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