Why the Rail Communications Infrastructure Must Be Brought Into the 21st Century

March 20th, 2023

Rail operators rely on their communications network to support an increasing and varied set of both legacy and modernized systems to improve safety, reduce carbon footprint, manage expanding freight and passenger loads, increase customer satisfaction, grow profitability, and comply with regulation.

We see advances in access control, ticketing, information kiosks and display screens. There is logistics monitoring and control for freight. Video surveillance is used to monitor footfall, support facial recognition, assist in weapons detection, and provide information for crowd control. Wi-Fi, mobile connectivity, and infotainment are available in stations and on trains. And, of course, there are the general alarm and warning systems, signaling and control systems, telemetry systems, dispatch systems based on TETRA / Push-To-Talk technology and not least, Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC), and supervision and monitoring systems.

Advances like these have allowed operators to increase freight and passenger capacity by adding more trains to their networks and to meet evolving expectations.

In addition to automation and digitization requirements, rail is a major target for cyber-attack. With bad actors of all stripes investing resources and targeting critical infrastructure, cyber-attacks on rail are increasing in both frequency and sophistication.

20th Century Communications Technology does not support 21st Century Rail Needs

The traditional SONET based rail communications network is just not capable of cost efficiently transporting today’s IP and Ethernet based services and hence the rail communications infrastructure must now enter the same century as the services and applications it is carrying.

This means modernizing and migrating rail communications systems to up-to-date technologies and techniques such as IP/MPLS, MPLS-TP, segment routing, flex-ethernet, carrier ethernet optical transport and network slicing. The big challenge for railway infrastructure operators is choosing the best technologies and partnerships to meet their very specific and business drivers. This modernization by definition has to be risk-free, while providing field proven and yet tailorable technology and processes.

A Modern Network Must Provide Resilience to Cyber-Attack

But it is not just about the technology -- any communications network modernization must be supported by a risk and vulnerability analysis before implementing systems to detect and prevent cyber-attacks. This requires a comprehensive multi-layered approach, vision, and strategy. For example, state-of-the-art UTMs (Unified Threat Management), firewalls, encryption systems, layer one segmentation (layer1), layers 3 to 7, and SCADA-focused network anomaly detection systems for zero-day attack prevention and detection. In other words, protection from attacks using malware to penetrate firewalls and anti-virus systems, among others.

Ribbon Puts Rail Communications on the Right Track Across the World

This might seem to be a daunting challenge, but Ribbon has the experience, skills, and technology to make modernization both seamless and effective.

Ribbon has been supporting rail communication networks for decades and has been at the forefront of modernizing rail communications networks for many years. Using this experience, we have created a set of technology and process’s purpose built to meet the specific needs of the rail industry.

Ribbon’s IP Wave for Rail communications networks provides the secure, high-capacity, low-latency, resilient IP and Optical networking required  to support next-generation rail networks. The portfolio meets the stringent environmental, technological and security needs of a modernized rail communications network.  And of course, Ribbon’s team of expert engineers will assist every step of the way, from planning to implementation and ongoing system management.

An upgraded communications network is absolutely essential to reducing security threats and providing operators and their teams with greater control over their networks. An improved communications network is also an opportunity to improve existing customer and freight services and introduce new revenue-generating features such as Wi-Fi access and even on-board advertising.

The only remaining question is, are you ready to bring your rail communications network into the 21st Century?

Visit us in Booth 427 at Enterprise Connect to learn more about our critical infrastructure offers.

Register Here