For all modes – buses, rail, and autonomous vehicles – ubiquitous connectivity has become a prominent topic across transportation committees.
Meeting the expectations of both transportation operators and passengers requires stable and reliable connections, which is where aggregation and managed connectivity come into play.
Let’s delve into today’s challenges and tomorrow’s benefits of aggregation.
1. Today’s State of Expectations & Challenges
During the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Mobility Conference in April 2023, I shed light on multi-network aggregation to meet the increasing operator demands and passenger expectations of reliable onboard connectivity. Connectivity is one of APTA’s Research and Technology subcommittee focus areas this year.
“Seamless operations and satisfied passengers start with a reliable onboard connection, which means overcoming connectivity limitations.”
The demand and consumption of data by both passengers and onboard systems have steadily increased, alongside the implementation of each new generation of wireless communications technologies and standards. This presents various challenges, given that these onboard systems compete for the same limited Internet bandwidth, and connectivity needs to be available for the entirety of a vehicle’s journey through rural and/or urban environments.
2. Setting a New Standard
A single Mobile Network Operator often struggles to provide sufficient onboard Internet coverage and capacity along the entire route, necessitating the establishment of a standard that ensures a new level of reliability.
This standard can be achieved through the intelligent aggregation of multiple communication technologies, such as cellular, Wi-Fi, satellite, private networks, and mmWave.
“By enabling the aggregation of a multitude of communication technologies, the most reliable connectivity to moving vehicles can be provided.”
3. An Intelligent Approach
An intelligent aggregated approach provides an opportunity to significantly enhance onboard connectivity reliability meeting the growing mobile data demands without compromising vital onboard system needs.
Here’s how it works:
As a train progresses along its track, it encounters 5G, LTE, and optionally, trackside masts. SureWAN™, an intelligent aggregation protocol, harnesses all available capacities to deliver the fastest and most reliable connection possible.
Recent trials, such as “Measuring and Modeling Aggregate LTE Connection Reliability,” have demonstrated that aggregating both LTE and 5G connections can provide peak capacities to vehicles exceeding 1 gigabit per second with minimal latency. For passengers, this translates into snappier internet browsing, smooth VOIP calls, and seamless video conferencing experiences.
“Transportation operators should feel empowered to go beyond conventional approaches and embrace an integrated approach to connectivity.”
4. Tomorrow’s Benefits
Extensive data collected from trials involving train-mounted cellular routers demonstrated that benefits of intelligent aggregation are within reach, including:
- Greater Reliability: When aggregation is utilized over the best single link, connection reliability reaches an impressive 99.994%, ensuring passengers can enjoy consistent connectivity throughout their journey.
- Expanded Coverage: Compared to relying on a single-operator cellular network, aggregating multiple networks allows for expanded coverage, eliminating connectivity gaps and dead zones.
- Multiple Concurrent Data Links: Aggregation enables the retention of multiple data links simultaneously, maximizing data capacity and ensuring optimal performance even in high-demand scenarios.
- Minimal Data Packet Delay: Switching between individual networks can introduce delays in data packet transmission. Aggregation mitigates this issue by minimizing switching delays, resulting in smoother and more seamless data transfer.
“Aggregation proves to be a game-changer in enhancing reliability by leveraging existing commercial infrastructure, thereby reducing the need for dedicated infrastructure and hardware.”