The VIRVE network will replace RAILI for railways

The Finnish Transport Agency will complete the transfer of operational communications from the RAILI radio network for railways to the VIRVE network for the Finnish authorities during 2018. The preparatory work began in 2016, as the current GSM-R radio network for railways is nearing the end of its technical and economic life cycle.

The Finnish Transport Agency is responsible for the development and maintenance of the Finnish railway infrastructure. Its responsibilities also include communication related to the safety of railways.

– Communication plays a significant role in smoothly running rail transport, particularly under exceptional circumstances. Connections to moving fleet are an essential part of safety,” says Tapio Raaska, Senior Officer, account manager for the Finnish Transport Agency’s RAILI service.

– The current GSM-R radio network for railways is nearing the end of its technical and economic life cycle. The transfer from RAILI to VIRVE is based on a temporary exemption granted to Finland by the European Commission. Once VIRVE has been adopted, the GSM-R network owned by the Finnish Transport Agency will be dismantled, tentatively at the turn of 2018 and 2019,” says Raaska.

– With the transfer to VIRVE, key improvements will include group calls. The technical quality of GSM-R group calls is weaker. The VIRVE radio network is better protected from interference. Its frequency is 480 MHz, and it has authority status. GSM-R is comparable to commercial networks and has the same frequency: 900 MHz. The use of VIRVE is much more inexpensive than maintaining a separate GSM-R network that needs replacement.

Rail transport will transfer to the VIRVE network for the authorities

The VIRVE network is based on TETRA technology. The network is used to provide radio communication services at a heightened level of security and preparedness for the authorities and authorised operators involved in maintaining the critical infrastructure for society.

VIRVE is used by rescue services, the police, the Finnish Defence Forces, social and healthcare services, the Finnish Border Guard, Customs, the Emergency Response Centre Agency, the Finnish Broadcasting Company and the Finnish Meteorological Institute, as well as ambulance and security companies and energy plants. The VIRVE network covers the entire country, including the Finnish waters and the Gulf of Finland sea area.

Transferring from RAILI to VIRVE on a tight schedule

The Finnish Transport Agency is currently serving as the mobile network operator that manages the GSM-R-based RAILI radio network. The network covers around 5,100 kilometres of railways and railway yards, with around 5,000 subscriptions. It serves traffic management personnel, drivers and guards, as well as exchange supervisors and rail construction managers. The use of the RAILI service is based on access permits issued by the Finnish Transport Agency.

The transfer from RAILI to the VIRVE network for the authorities began in summer 2016. The radio network has been modified, base stations have been added to VIRVE and coverage has been ensured in railway tunnels during the transition period. In addition, the communication system for traffic management personnel has been renewed.

Railway companies are responsible for acquiring subscriptions and terminal devices

The Finnish Traffic Agency is responsible for ensuring that the systems work and that the network has sufficient coverage. Railway companies are responsible for acquiring subscriptions and terminal devices.

–  Comatec prepared specifications for SM5 local trains in Helsinki for the acquisition of devices for VIRVE. We also carried out planning related to the installation of devices in trains for VR, says Jorma Nordfors, expert at Comatec.

The requirements for the replacement of the communication system with a new one included adjusting VIRVE’s capacity to railway use and ensuring the necessary functionalities, such as emergency calls and the transfer of calls according to the task.

With the new RAPLI smartphone application, exchange supervisors and rail construction managers will be allowed to communicate with traffic management personnel via commercial networks. Traffic management personnel totals around 400, with nearly 90 employees working in different parts of Finland on a daily basis.

Source: Rautateiden Raili vaihtuu Virve-verkkoon (In Finnish)