HomeAutonomous VehiclesSiemens, Ondas in radio supply exclusive for rail sector, amid US spectrum shakeup

Siemens, Ondas in radio supply exclusive for rail sector, amid US spectrum shakeup

Siemens has struck a deal with private network provider Ondas Networks to range the California firm’s wireless radio systems under its own brand in North America, as part of its offer to the railroad sector.

The German industrial giant will integrate radio technology from Ondas Networks in a new Siemens-branded portfolio of radio products, which will be available by the end of the year.

The arrangement is an exclusive one, according to a press missive, presumably for both sides, with Siemens and Ondas Networks collaborating on private narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) in the rail sector in North America.

Siemens’ forthcoming portfolio will include new dual-mode radios for both base station and wayside that implement the firm’s own Advanced Train Control System (ATCS) protocols, widely deployed in the rail sector, with so-called MC-IoT (mission-critical IoT) architecture from Ondas Networks.

Ondas Networks claims its MC-IoT architecture is designed for “mission critical use… to meet stringent demands for low latency, high reliability, availability and security”. It said MC-IoT will make them ready to implement advanced train control, signalling, crossing, and monitoring applications.

The North American private rail network consists of 140,000 miles of track, 25,000 locomotives, 1.6 million railcars, and 200,000 highway crossings. A significant portion of its communications infrastructure is more than 20 years old, and needs upgrading if it is to support automated rail operations.

In March, Ondas Networks, formerly Full Spectrum, announced contracts to deploy private LTE networks with two major railroads in North America in March, without revealing their identities.

The company said it had fulfilled a purchase order from a Class 1 railroad for the deployment of its FullMAX software-defined radio (SDR) in 125 kHz of spectrum in the 900 MHz licensed frequency band. It has also deployed the final phase of a field trial with another Class 1 railroad, also using its FullMAX SDR platform in the 900 MHz frequency band.

Class 1 railroads, the largest revenue-generating railways in North America, are currently using communications networks using single licensed frequency bands. Ondas Networks’ SDR solution enables them to deploy applications over multiple bands, to build capacity and prioritise traffic, and also consolidate their networks over a single platform.

Siemens and Ondas Networks said their arrangement will enable a capacity increase for existing wireless infrastructure using licensed radio frequencies at 900 MHz, and accommodate future changes in spectrum availability.

Marc Buncher, chief executive at Siemens Mobility for North America, said: “These new ATCS radios will provide the railroads with a seamless migration path to build up intelligent infrastructure. The full complement of radio products we can offer through our partnership with Ondas will enable our customers to further leverage the extensive investments they have already made in radio spectrum and communications infrastructure.”

Eric Brock, chief executive at Ondas Networks, said: “Siemens is a world-renowned leader and innovator in transportation with the reach and support systems to truly drive our technology to wide scale acceptance. Our technology has enormous potential in the North American railroad market and we’re very excited about the future we see with this partnership.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has just voted to modify the Association of American Railroads’s (AAR’s) nationwide 900 MHz band license, which traces a 140-mile-wide ribbon surrounding rail lines across the US.

The decision comes as part of a move on usage of six megahertz of 900 MHz spectrum for private broadband networking by companies operating critical infrastructure in the US, split between two five-megahertz holdings at 897.5-900.5 MHz and 936.5-939.5 MHz.

The remaining four megahertz of these twin holdings (along with segments either side, at 896-897.5 MHz, 935-936.5 MHz, 900.5-901 MHz, and 939.5-940 MHz) will be reserved for narrowband operations. The FCC said the AAR allocation will be moved out of the new broadband segment of the 900 MHz band.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said: “Today’s proposed modification can accomplish the herculean task of fully moving AAR’s license to the new narrowband segment of the band while preventing disruption to critical rail operations. The proposed modification not only will clear a major incumbent from the new broadband segment, but also will facilitate upgrades to AAR’s network that will make railways across the nation safer.”

Meanwhile, Ondas Networks owns its own tranche of spectrum in the US, down in the 700 MHz band, for private cellular networks for industrial users in the state of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as certain coastal counties in Texas and Louisiana.

Upper 700 MHz ‘A-block’ spectrum is considered ideal for utilities, critical infrastructure, IoT, M2M, and rail services. The company is offering private wireless connectivity for mission-critical services in these regions, plus certain adjacent counties.

The State of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico cover 900,000 square miles of surface area; Ondas Networks claims to have delivered private mobile and fixed wireless services in “large portions” – 700,000 people in 25,000 square miles of land – in record time.

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