The network operates in the 1800MHz band in spectrum licensed to Victoria's DoT which it acquired in the ACMA's 2001 spectrum auction. The network is completely separate form any of the public cellular networks. A trial systems is planned to be operational before the end of 2009.
GSM-R is a variant of the GSM digital cellular standard developed specifically for rail networks and this will be the first installation of the technology in Australia. Paul Tyler, head of Nokia Siemens Networks, Australia and New Zealand, said, "This project is ... the result of a long campaign in having GSM-R accepted as the preferred Australian standard of future train radio systems.
GSM-R an Australian standard
According to the Victorian Department of Transport, in 2004, a national standard for radio communications was agreed by the Australian Railway Association, together with all network operators and since then, the Department of Transport, Australian Rail Track Corporation and RailCorp in Sydney have commenced radio replacement projects that are in accordance with this nationally agreed standard which will use GSM-R technology.
"This means that for the first time, railways in Australia have adopted a coordinated and consistent standard across the nation," said Victorian public transport minister Lynne Kosky. "This is a step toward achieving the ultimate goal of having one coordinated radio system across the nation.
"This technology is a generic standard that is not only proven to offer benefits today, but has a clear path into the future. It will serve Victorians for many years to come as it is consistent with the spectrum that has been purchased by the rail industry across the nation."
Rail Track takes a different track, Next G
However Australian Rail Track appears to have taken a different approach. Two years ago Telstra was awarded a $85m contract to provide communications along 10,000kms of the Australian Rail Track Corporation's network using its Next G network supplemented by Iridium satellite services in remote areas.
That network was built with Federal Government funding under the Auslink National Transport Plan and the contract came just two years after Telstra had been awarded a contract to provide similar functionality using its CDMA network. Then, along came Sol Trujillo who closed that network down.
GSM-R is the current rail standard used throughout Europe and parts of Asia, and continues to be developed internationally along with its parent GSM technology. According to Nokia-Siemens, "GSM-R was developed to support the high safety standards and specific operational requirements of railways.
The arm of Siemens that was incorporated into the Nokia-Siemens Networks joint venture researched and created the GSM-R standard in the early 1990s. Nokia-Siemens now claims to have deployed more than 20 GSM-R networks in 17 countries serving some 50,000 km of railways.