BELGIUM: Infrabel has successfully completed a two-year project to migrate its radio communications core network infrastructure to a VOIP backbone, as part of its ongoing telecoms modernisation and resignalling programme.

Working with industrial partner Kontron Transportation, the national infrastructure manager has been working to switch its communications backbone from its legacy R99 TDM technology to R4 Voice over IP; this is expected to make the system more efficient and reliable.

GSM-R is being used for a wide range of secure voice communications between railway operations, control and maintenance staff, but also provides the data channel for ETCS Level 2 train control. Driving the case for upgrading was the need to increase the level of reliability and availability of data transmission services as Infrabel continues its network-wide roll-out of ETCS.

Kontron had previously undertaken similar migrations for Network Rail in the UK and SNCF Réseau in France. However, the Belgian project was complicated by the need to maintain efficient continuity for high speed cross-border operation. It also involved the replacement of an entire core network system supplied by a third-party vendor.

To meet what Kontron Transportation CEO Michael Riegert described as ‘an extremely aggressive schedule’, the partners jointly developed, validated and implemented a set of migration procedures to respect the various operational constraints for each phase of the changeover, so as not to impact on the quality or continuity of services. The programme culminated with a final switchover of the entire radio access network, including controllers and base stations, over a single weekend.

Welcoming the completion announced on February 19, the head of Infrabel’s I-ICT department Alex Raviart said the migration had been achieved ‘without delay with respect to the initial project plan, despite a context made very difficult by the current health crisis’.