Wireless Spectrum for Enhancing Railway’s Safety

  • 10 Feb 2024

In an unexpected move, on 8th February, 2024, the Union Cabinet approved the Indian Railways' proposal to acquire 5 Megahertz of wireless spectrum for enhancing passenger safety, a day after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) initiated a consultation on the matter.

Key Points

  • Approval amid Safety Concerns: The Union Cabinet's approval comes in response to Indian Railways' request for an additional 5 MHz of paired spectrum in the 700 MHz band, primarily aimed at bolstering real-time data transfer capabilities to enhance passenger safety.
  • Pending TRAI Response: TRAI had floated a consultation paper to gather feedback on whether Indian Railways should receive the spectrum largely free of cost.
  • Despite TRAI's ongoing consultation, the Union Cabinet proceeded with its decision to reserve the spectrum, awaiting further allocation.
  • Real-Time Data Transfer Needs: Indian Railways emphasized the importance of capturing real-time data and videos from moving trains to ensure safety measures are implemented effectively.
  • Dumping data at stations with high-capacity WiFi was deemed insufficient for achieving this objective.
  • Safety Features and Advantages: The spectrum allocation aims to support the implementation of various safety features such as the Modern Train Control System, Train Collision Avoidance System, and emergency mobile communications.
  • Additionally, it is expected to enhance passenger security, CCTV network coverage, video surveillance, and asset reliability.
  • Opposition and Recommendations: The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) opposed allocating spectrum to non-telecom use cases, citing potential constraints on 5G technology deployment.
  • Balancing Spectrum Utilization: TRAI suggested that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) consider allowing telecom operators to access the spectrum without disrupting rail communications, ensuring efficient use of limited spectrum resources along railway tracks.