Railroads are a direct offspring of the industrial revolution of the 19th century, but thanks to technology they will be the backbone of the future decarbonized and connected economy. It operates from renewable energies and is less polluting, more efficient and faster than other modes of transportation, making it the ideal candidate for achieving the net emissions target in 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement. Because even though transport consumes a third of final energy in the EU, rail stands as the most sustainable alternative, accounting for only 0.5% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions.
Of course, although Europe has one of the densest rail networks in the world – with thousands of kilometers of metro and trains running through most of the land connecting citizens, transporting goods and generating economic growth – it is necessary to modernize the corridors. “The rail environment manages many infrastructures and systems that require connectivity that ensures safety, efficiency (technical and cost) and ecosystem sustainability,” explains Sergey Alsina, Head of Business Strategy at Cellnex.
The largest operator of wireless communications infrastructure in Europe has found a window of opportunity to expand its rail digitization operations, capitalizing on its character as a neutral operator and its long experience in network deployment for essential services. “The corridor is an environment with many limitations in space and technical complexity, due to the coexistence of different networks and radio frequency systems and because of the compatibility of multiple actors,” Alsina explains. “We are a natural provider of this type of service that requires an independent actor: we help solve various problems before, during and after publication.”
The company’s projects go beyond ensuring a complete and secure connection but take into account the future autonomous train
Sergio Alsina. Director of Business Strategy at Cellnex
With a neutral operator model, Cellnex has been selected for some of the largest metro or rail network digitization projects in Europe. Deploying a single infrastructure for all operators avoided duplication, minimized costs, and ensured a secure environment between passenger communications and operations.
After debuting in the complex management of underground and overhead rail networks with a section of the Barcelona Metro in 2004, Cellnex acquired in 2016 CommsCon, an expert in signal coverage solutions based on Small Cells and DAS in areas and spaces where It has a large number of users and this has proven its solvency in large metro projects in Italy.
More than 500 stations in five countries
Today, six years later, Cellnex operates and has projects in Europe in its portfolio to provide connectivity to 7,700 kilometers of rail lines (metro and rail) and more than 500 stations in five countries. The United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands are some of the countries in which the company currently has franchises. In Paris, it is responsible for providing mobile coverage for metro lines 16 and 17 of the Grand Paris Express through a multi-operator DAS (Distributed Antenna System). Cellnex will provide continuous and optimal connectivity – voice and data -, regardless of the mobile operator, in all stations and tunnels between Saint-Denis Pleyel and Noisy-Champs (Line 16), Charles de Gaulle Airport and later Le Mesnil Amelot (Line 17). For ProRail, the company also manages and expands telecommunications sites to ensure mobile connectivity along and around railways in the Netherlands. The contract includes the construction of 80 new telecommunications sites, which can be leased to third parties, as well as the construction of another 100 sites for other operators on land owned by the Dutch railway manager.
Along the same lines, in March 2021, Cellnex won a 25-year concession in the UK to provide uninterrupted mobile internet, mobile reception and fiber services along the main Brighton Road. The service will provide specific coverage and capabilities to UK mobile network operators (MNOs), benefiting commuters, communities and neighbors on both sides of the lines from London to the South Coast.
But the Cellnex model goes beyond ensuring a complete and secure connection. Our proposal includes end to end From the project i.e. from investment and financing to design and publication, Tests and operating for the marketing of all infrastructure to third parties during the concession”, explains Sergey Elsina. Along this path, another added value of the company is to define business models in the field of installation and operation of infrastructure and to design their offerings in a 360-degree concept. Thus, their projects are designed with developments for trains Fully autonomous or even contemplating automatic car coupling in the future.
Ban is not true
Thanks to the application of technologies such as the Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, BIM (Building Information Modeling) or Digital Twins, the maintenance of railway infrastructures can move from a corrective approach to a preventive approach in real time, more accurate, better and more effective .
The project Reseltrack for example. Its goal is to be able to know the state of the railway infrastructure and its response to adverse weather phenomena, through an innovative solution that allows the provision of data in real time. To do this, a network of sensors is deployed that measure parameters such as vibrations, inclinations or acceleration, which along with weather and environmental information data help determine the state of components of the railway infrastructure. IoT-type solutions allow communication between sensors deployed in the pilot areas and the SmartBrain data integration platform.