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Putting Frecciarossa coverage on track

Phil Sorsky, VP of Wireless Sales in Europe at CommScope, looks at the challenges of deploying wireless coverage for Trenitalia’s Frecciarossa high-speed trains


t has become an anomaly of modern life that rail commuters, who crave wireless communications for personal and business

use during their journeys, are often left com- pletely unconnected while on board trains. Despite the clear demand from passengers for

wireless connectivity, and the potentially lucra- tive revenue opportunity for operators, in-train coverage has been slow to appear. Te reason for this is that while providing reliable wireless cov- erage inside large buildings can be challenging, doing so in structures moving at 350 kilometres per hour is downright daunting! Operators face the challenge of providing

wireless coverage in what amounts to high- speed Faraday cages (that is, an enclosure formed by conducting material that blocks out external electric fields), sometimes run- ning through many kilometres of tunnels. Even when trains are running above ground, perfect coverage along the track often does not trans- late to wireless connectivity inside the train.

Signal penetration CommScope was recently brought on board by Telecom Italia to solve this technical challenge and provide reliable 2G and 3G coverage for passengers on the ETR 500 Frecciarossa (‘Red Arrow’) high-speed trains. Tis high-speed line is managed by Italian rail operator Trenitalia and currently carries around one million pas- sengers a month between Turin in northern Italy and Salerno in the south. Te Frecciarossa trains are also the fastest in Trenitalia’s fleet, with speeds reaching between 300–350 kilo- metres per hour. From the outset, CommScope understood

that the metallized windows of high-speed trains can dramatically reduce wireless signal penetration into train carriages, resulting in spotty coverage and an increase in dropped calls. Even the pure velocity of high-speed trains complicates matters, as wireless signals must be rapidly handed-off between base sta- tions as the train moves along its route. If this process is not managed correctly, it can result

26 LAND mobile November 2011

in dropped calls or interrupted data connections. Additionally, the wire- less communications systems in such trains must support the com- plexities of the rapidly changing outdoor signal levels of the various mobile networks involved. To overcome this problem, CommScope

installed in-train repeaters throughout all 60 Frecciarossa trains. Tese repeaters transmit and receive wireless signals to passengers’ hand- held devices, overcoming the penetration loss to the signal coming from outside caused by the carriage’s metallized structure. CommScope supplied about 600 Node AM

dual-band digital repeaters and kilometres of RADIAX® radiating cable with connectors and accessories, in addition to helping design and commission the wireless coverage system. A CommScope Node AM repeater, pickup an- tenna for GSM 900 MHz/UMTS 2100 MHz/ GPS frequency bands, and meters of RADIAX are installed in each Frecciarossa train carriage. Installation of the new system on the Treni-

talia Frecciarossa high speed trains was com- pleted in December 2010 and has significantly improved wireless performance. By solving the issue of signal degradation, the new system

was able to improve the power efficiency of track-side base stations, resulting in an overall increase in the data transfer speed for wireless devices on board the Frecciarossa trains.

Handover region In addition, CommScope helped to deploy elongated cells that reduce the number of base station handovers required while simultaneously boosting signal strength within the handover re- gion. Tis minimizes the chance of any dropped connections during base station handovers. Tis deployment for Trenitalia and Telecom

Italia demonstrates that, despite the hurdles of deploying public transport wireless coverage, the benefits are wide-ranging. Subscribers benefit from the ability to work or play on the move, operators can harness a new lucrative revenue stream and train operators can promote their networks over those of competitors by advertis- ing their wireless connectivity. Given these ad- vantages, there can be little doubt that those de- ploying wireless coverage are on the right track.

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