German railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB) has selected Nokia to test standalone (SA) 5G technology for automated rail operations in Germany.

This move forms part of the railway company’s automated S-Bahn operation project. Deutsche Bahn expects that the trial will help it gain insight into the feasibility of 5G as the connectivity layer for digitalised operations in railways.

It has said that the project is an essential phase in developing the Future Railway Mobile Communications System (FRMCS) standard. This is based on 5G technology.

Automated trains with on-board drivers will be operating on the 23km stretch of the S-Bahn Line 21 from Berliner Tor by 2021.

This trial will also include the driverless shunting of empty trains near Bergedorf station. The Nokia 5G mobile network will transmit train control information during this process.

The Nokia solution is based on 3GPP standards for 5G network. It allows self-driving trains to transmit data to and from the trackside equipment.

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Nokia Enterprise president and chief strategy officer Kathrin Buvac said: “We are very pleased to be Deutsche Bahn’s partner, bringing digital technology to the forefront of the Hamburg S-Bahn network and rail system.

“Together, we have worked to research, develop and deliver the world’s first 5G-based communication system for automated rail operation, an important milestone towards the Future Rail Mobile Communication System and a major step in making Industry 4.0 a reality.”

In April, Vodafone launched a live trial of its 5G cellular mobile communication technology at Birmingham New Street rail station.

In February, FirstGroup teamed up with Blu Wireless to deliver 5G Wi-Fi services to UK trains.

Last year, the UK Government conducted 5G connectivity trials on the TransPennine Railway route between Leeds and Manchester to improve internet connectivity of railways.