CFM Cooperates with Huawei to Set an Example of FRMCS-based Railway Communication Reconstruction
Global System for Mobile Communications – Railway (GSM-R) specifications were released two decades ago. These have been successfully used around the world, but can no longer support the bandwidth, latency, and connectivity required by railways as they go digital.
In response, the International Union of Railways (UIC) began developing the next-generation communication system in 2012. It has worked with standards organizations like European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) to launch the FRMCS, promoting railway digitalization through more intelligent networks.
As GSM-R systems reach the end of their lifecycle, their chips, ecosystem, and technologies are gradually becoming obsolete. This makes it challenging for railway operators to select a robust train-to-ground communication system.
Ports and Railways of Mozambique (CFM) faced this issue, risking doubling its investment in an outdated GSM-R system. Instead, it worked with Huawei to deploy the LTE solution adopting the FRMCS architecture, which meets the communication requirements of modern, digital railways.
Located on the Indian Ocean in Southern Africa, Mozambique is home to several large ports, including Maputo, Beira, and Nacala. From here, nine railway lines ferry goods to other African countries such as South Africa, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.
These ports have unique geographic advantages and are among the main transportation channels for import and export to neighboring inland countries. Mozambique also enjoys abundant marine resources — it has the largest reserve of tantalum in the world and over 15 billion tons of coal.
As such, smart and efficient railways are key for Mozambique. They can enhance the country's ties with nearby landlocked countries and promote national economic development through easier transport of natural resources. However, the growing mining industry poses many challenges to Mozambique's railways, impacting efficiency and safety.
CFM is responsible for maintaining and developing Mozambique's railway and port infrastructure. To address some of these challenges, CFM decided to upgrade its legacy communication infrastructure. Its objective was to build a modern, stable, and sustainable communication system to ensure reliable train-to-ground voice and data communication.
According to UIC, the FRMCS system will work in parallel with the GSM-R system by 2025 to achieve a smooth transition to 5G by around 2030. Considering that the FRMCS 5G standard has not been frozen, LTE networks are preferred. LTE networks can be smoothly upgraded to 5G, enabling future-oriented continuous evolution of the FRMCS solution and meeting commercial deployment requirements while protecting customers' investments.
Huawei designed a targeted integrated dispatching communication system based on FRMCS for CFM. The system uses an advanced converged communication platform to provide MCX wireless broadband trunking and multimedia dispatching communication services. It also supports 3GPP-compliant mobile communication networks and enables crucial communications and rich multimedia dispatching.
The system also supports specific railway business functions, such as function codes and emergency calls. It provides panoramic, visualized, and controllable dispatching and commands for dispatching personnel, locomotive drivers, and transportation management. This improves transportation security and O&M efficiency.
The system quickly transmits real-time information, unlike its outdated counterpart. This has also reduced the number of security accidents, such as collisions between freight and passenger trains as well as casualties among railway maintenance personnel.
The integrated dispatching communication system adopts an architecture based on international standards. This helps speed up the development of dedicated railway network communication technologies outside China. At the same time, featured by broadband and high-speed mobility, the updated communication system now has laid technical foundation to build high-speed railways for Mozambique.
Mozambique has started to benefit from FRMCS, greatly improving the efficiency of scheduling, safe operation, and employee management. Statistics show that the freight volume of the Port of Maputo had increased from 22 million tons in 2021 to 26.7 million tons in 2022, which is expected to exceed 30 million tons in 2023, continuously hitting record highs. As the overall efficiency rises, CFM stands a good chance of making breakthroughs in business revenue.
Mozambique has worked with Huawei to deploy a next-generation FRMCS-based communication system. The benchmark transportation project has set the tone for Africa in modernizing railway communication technologies. The result is enhanced transportation capacity which is slated to drive Mozambique's economic growth.
The country's experience has been shared at various international exchanges, solidifying Mozambique's image as a leader in innovation. Huawei looks forward to ongoing cooperation with partners, building better-connected rails for our rail customers.