In the last five years, and carried by the enormous success of smartphone and tablet devices in providing a user-friendly interface to mobile user equipment, Long Term Evolution (LTE) has matured from one of several possible radio data transmission broadband technologies to quickly become a de facto standard radio layer for all future mobile applications in the mobile telecommunications sector.

As such, advanced communications systems have been rising in importance and prominence in modern railways, as increasingly complex operations and technologies such as Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) place higher demands on both mobile and fixed communications networks.

Analogue railway radio communications systems are highly reliable, with low latency and group call features. However, these technologies struggle to provide for more capacity, especially where agencies are facing competition from carriers for limited and highly valued spectrum. The inability of current systems to carry large volumes of data also prevents such technologies from carrying CBTC.

At the same time, the rapid pace of technological change in the telecommunications industry is making analogue radio networks originally designed and deployed in the 1980s and 1990s become rapidly obsolete, with parts and components increasingly difficult to source and procure.

Long Term Evolution (often referred to as LTE or ‘4G’) is the name used to refer to the latest generation of mobile telephony technology. LTE has taken the mobile industry by storm, rapidly evolving to take over the ecological niche of potentially competing technologies. Since the first LTE deployments took place in the public carrier space in 2009, the technology has started to grow at a pace not seen since the original 1990s GSM deployment, and it has become nearly ubiquitous.

More interestingly, LTE is making inroads into markets that were never the focus of previous mobile technologies. Thanks to the advances in machine virtualisation, it is now possible to scale down networks so that they offer all the capacity of full blown carrier-grade communications systems, while being dimensioned to meet the capacity requirements of a smaller and more demanding set of users and applications.

The industry is starting to respond to this increase in demand in the rail sector, as well as in other sectors such as First Responders and Emergency Services. This White Paper explores how LTE is changing to meet this demand, with particular emphasis on the provision of mission-critical voice services over an LTE radio layer, and what will be the implications of those changes on the railway industry at large.

I invite you to download the White Paper, The VoLTEe Edge: Mission-Critical Voice over LTE, which has been written in conjunction with Michael Crocker of Public Transport Authority.