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In the first blog in this blog series I shared that passenger volumes for urban railways, automated people movers (APMs), and other forms of mass transit continue to grow. To satisfy increasing demand while meeting safety, passenger experience, and operational efficiency goals, rail operators are ramping up investments in innovative technology solutions.

One of the most important is Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC). In the simplest of terms, CBTC puts passenger rail on “auto-pilot.” This high level of automation offers significant benefits for rail operators and their passengers. But CBTC also introduces new networking challenges, including the need for a simpler yet more powerful network on board each train car.

With the move to CBTC, rail operators are taking a fresh look at their onboard train network, implementing a multiservice foundation that shifts from disjointed proprietary networks to a common IP network.

At Cisco, we’ve built a network architecture that both strengthens and simplifies the onboard train network. As part of Cisco’s Connected Train solution, we provide a resilient infrastructure capable of supporting numerous services and use cases. Whether supporting vital applications such as CBTC, or non-vital applications such as passenger WiFi, CCTV, infotainment, digital signage and point-of-sale systems, the Cisco Connected Train onboard network provides the needed bandwidth, reliability, and security.

A linchpin of our architecture is the Cisco Catalyst IE3400 Heavy Duty Series. This next-generation, IP67-rated switching platform is designed to provide enhanced network-based security, segmentation, and visibility in the most demanding environments. It can stand up to the harsh conditions rail operators often face such as heavy vibration, extreme weather, exposure to water and dust. Additionally, it is compliant with the stringent onboard rail industry standards.

In addition to physical durability, cyber security is another area of strength for the IE3400 Heavy Duty Series switches. Because they are powered by Cisco IOS XE, a next-generation operating system, security, and trust are built in via Secure Boot, image signing, and the Cisco Trust Anchor module.

The Cisco Catalyst IW9167 Series access point is another key player in our onboard network architecture. This access point provides reliable wireless connectivity for mission-critical applications on board rail cars. It can operate as Wi-Fi 6 or Cisco Ultra-Reliable Wireless Backhaul – offering flexibility and mobility to accommodate evolving needs.

When running in Wi-Fi mode, it provides Wi-Fi connectivity to rail personnel and passengers within the train. When connectivity provided from Cisco IW9167E (CURWB) or Cisco FM4500 wireless radio, it delivers fiber-like train-to-ground communication for both vital and nonvital applications. In either mode, it delivers the high level of bandwidth that modern rail systems – and their Wi-Fi-dependent passengers – require.

A simple and reliable onboard network is critical to the success of CBTC systems. Another important component is resilient and secured trackside infrastructure – a topic I’ll dive into in my next post.

In the meantime, learn more about Cisco’s capabilities for railways, check out Cisco Connected Rail solution design zone.