With the latest communication technology rapidly advancing each year, it’s important to consider how railway infrastructure can stay up to date, not only for the convenience of passengers on board but also for signalling and control across large rail networks. Having reliable connectivity on board provides advantages over travel alternatives that do not allow passengers to remain connected or focused to make the most of this downtime such as flying between cities or driving a car.

Daniel Montagnese, head of product management, antennas at HUBER+SUHNER, explains why it’s important to passengers: “With the whole value proposition of railway transportation based around connectivity, it’s essential that train operators provide good internet connectivity on board for passengers, otherwise other travel options become more enticing.”

Keeping trains connected throughout the entire journey

Trains keep everyone connected wirelessly using rooftop antennas, which need to be able to support high data throughputs with the increasing demands of train-to-ground connectivity, ensuring passengers remain online while on board. Today modern train radios and public cellular networks have already utilised multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) technology to increase 4G and 5G data throughput.

HUBER+SUHNER’s latest release, the SENCITY® Rail MIMO+ Rooftop antenna, using dual polarisation technology, offers advanced connectivity for both passengers and operators alike throughout the entire journey. It can connect to base station infrastructure while the train is on the move using two highly decoupled signal streams to increase the chance of achieving MIMO conditions.

“The rooftop antenna communicating with the base station antenna is the longest distance over the air with no cabling. This is the bottleneck, and the connection that has the biggest losses in the system,” says Montagnese. “After the antennas, there would normally be an  Ethernet or fibre-optic connection going back to servers, but the antennas are talking to each other wirelessly. The antenna technology needs to be as good as it can be to ensure that the losses are minimised and that you have overall the best possible internet connectivity.”

Reliable connectivity for adverse railway operating environments

Mounted externally on the train’s rooftop, the SENCITY® Rail MIMO+ antenna is built to handle the full extent of train operating conditions, including direct exposure to adverse weather, as well as the shock and impact of travelling through tunnels at high speeds.

“Railway antennas are quite special in their design and installation,” says Montagnese. “It’s quite a harsh environment for products because trains can operate at very high speeds.

Another critical thing for many operators is the certifications of the antenna. In many countries, there is a requirement that antennas are protected from the catenary lines and HUBER+SUHNER has this certification for its whole railway antenna portfolio. No other company has this certification.

When considering these limitations, installing an antenna and maintaining optimum network connectivity can be challenging. However, Montagnese explains: “The benefit of HUBER+SUHNER antennas is that they’re often already used on trains and thus operators just need a simple upgrade from older antennas to the newer ones.”

The SENCITY® Rail MIMO+ antenna has the same mounting footprint as HUBER+SUHNER’s previous antennas, or alternatively, can be installed using adaptive plates, which makes retrofitting quick and simple.

With minimal installation required, the versatile SENCITY® Rail MIMO+ rooftop antenna is an advanced solution for a smoother digital experience for those on board without requiring the installation of dedicated trackside infrastructure across your rail network.