Testing Functional Aliases for Railway Communications

The rail industry, particularly in Europe, is looking to move away from the Global System for Mobile Communications-Railway (GSM-R) to FRMCS (Future Railway Mobile Communication System).  Like many industries, the technologies currently in use are dated and quickly reach obsolescence.  

The GSM-R international wireless communication standard, developed in the 1990s, has been used for railway communications across the world. The standard is based on 2G GSM technology and as such has many limitations as the world moves to 5G technologies.  

The new train radio system being developed is based on 5G and according to Rail Engineer, “will provide reliable, low-latency, mission-critical communications for routine and emergency requirements. It will also provide for applications such as massive and critical machine type communications and the Internet of Things (IoT).”  

One area of importance in the move to FRMCS is the role of Functional Aliases. As discussed in Critical Communications Today, Functional Alias handling allows “a user to (based on their current operational role) show how they will appear to others.  While this appears like a straightforward capability to be addressed with the new standards, in reality there are impactful complexities in the feature that may have an impact on other areas of the standards development.  

In rail, the train’s driver may change as the rail moves from location to location.  Being able to access the current driver via Functional Alias is important.  Additionally, carriages that are cellular-equipped may be reconfigured based on different journeys.  These variations must be accounted for so that in the event of an emergency the correct driver and location be reached.  

Valid8 has been working closely with the industry to develop tests to ensure proper operation of the Functional Alias.  This includes testing where the MCX servers (either controlling or participating server) and clients  

  • Can configure and create a Functional Alias
  • Check the status of a Functional Alias
  • Activate/Deactivate a Functional Alias.

These tests are part of the broad conformance, performance load and security testing capabilities of Valid8’s emulation technology.  As a regular participant in ETSI Plugtests, Valid8 collaborates with vendors across the critical communications industry to help develop and test standards.  

As the rail industry moves from GSM-R to FRMCS, testing capabilities such as Functional Alias will help ensure the reliability of the new infrastructure.  Valid8’s broad testing suite will be integral to helping with the transition.  

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