Vic railways overhaul analog systems

The Victorian Department of Transport has signed a five-year, $150 million deal with a Nokia and Siemens consortium to upgrade its railway's antiquated analog communications system to digital.

The Victorian Department of Transport has signed a five-year, $150 million deal with a Nokia and Siemens consortium to upgrade its railway's antiquated analog communications system.

The managed service and network roll-out has been won by a consortium of Nokia-Siemens Networks and Siemens Mobility. The proposed GSM-R (Global System for Mobile Communications — Railway) network roll-out is likely to be a significant improvement for ground staff and train operators, who have faced significant communications blackspots under the current analog system.

GSM-R, derived from GSM technology, is widely used across Europe's railway network and has been rated to handle speeds of up to 500km per hour.

Over the five-year period the consortium will provide network design, security, hardware, software, civil construction works as well as maintenance and management for the 380km area of GSM-R coverage.

The new communications network is set to be a major boost to ground staffs' ability to communicate with train controllers, who have previously faced communication blackspots, forcing staff at times to rely on personal mobile phones to communicate.

The Victorian Government in 2006 had proposed the adoption of GSM-R — a proposal that included using spectrum which it had bought from One.Tel after its 2001 collapse, according to The Age.

Nokia-Siemens Networks claims it has rolled out 20 GSM-R networks in 17 countries covering around 50,000km of railways.

"This project is particularly rewarding since it comes as a result of a long campaign in having GSM-R accepted as the preferred Australian standard of future train radio systems," said Paul Tyler, head of Nokia Siemens Networks Australia and New Zealand.

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