Germany targets gigabit speeds for train passengers

High speed train

All aboard! German train firm Deutsche Bahn, kit vendor Ericsson, operator O2 Telefónica and tower firm Vantage Towers teaming up to trial new ways to pump up 5G along Germany’s train tracks.

The ensemble of firms today got the nod from German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV) for €6.4 million in funding to test the project to pipe gigabit 5G speeds to train passengers in Germany, called Gigabit Innovation Track (GINT). The firms now plan to ‘develop technical and financial options’ for the build out.

We’re told the firms ‘plan to find out’ by the end of 2024 how to achieve decent 5G on the train, and in a way ‘that minimizes the use of resources.’ It will do this in part by testing out ten ‘innovative’ towers of different designs along a roughly ten kilometre section of track in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania.

An example given as varying tower types being tested include towers that can be securely screwed into the ground without the need for concrete foundations, and the project will also play about with 5G on 3.6 gigahertz frequencies. Since one tower covers only around one kilometer of rail line, the firms estimate that would require 20,000 new along tracks throughout Germany.

“Creating a high-performance and resource-saving mobile network infrastructure along tracks for passenger communication and the FRMCS is an exciting challenge in terms of technology,” said Daniel Leimbach, Managing Director of Ericsson GmbH. “As the leader in 5G technology, we rely on active and passive multiple input multiple output (MIMO) and beamforming technologies. Beamforming directs radio signals to receiving devices using a technique that allows especially targeted and efficient data transmission.”

Dr Volker Wissing, Federal Minister for Digital and Transport added: “Increasing rail’s appeal is about more than making sure trains are on time and reliable. Taking the train needs to be as pleasant an experience as possible and more convenient. We want trains to be able to serve as a traveling office or living room where passengers can work, stream videos and make calls without any technical issues at all. To achieve this high quality, we have to have gigabit coverage. The Gigabit Innovation Track project being funded will lay the crucial foundation for this.”

Trialling new tower types and testing different frequency solutions could end up providing some useful takeaways for bumping up connectivity in all sorts of situations, which is something the UK government might take an interest in as it plans to improve 5G in cities with its smart lamppost idea. Hopefully what comes out of it is a bit more interesting than towers that can be screwed into the floor rather then cemented, mind.


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