Market analysis: 4G vs. 5G mobile communications

Photo: Copyright BLS

From real-time customer information and mobile reception to train announcements, video surveillance and automatic passenger counting: BLS trains, one of the largest transport companies in Switzerland, are equipped with state-of-the-art electronics. However, some communication systems are still based on outdated 3G technology and will soon have to be replaced. This raises the question for BLS of whether to migrate directly to 5G or whether cheaper 4G routers can still meet the requirements for the next five to ten years.

Comparison of 4G and 5G mobile communications

To investigate the most efficient migration scenario for BLS’s rail vehicles, onway was commissioned to carry out a market analysis. The technical requirements of BLS were compared with the possibilities of 4G and 5G mobile radio and various migration scenarios were considered. It was shown that 5G can play out its advantages in rural areas, as the new 700 MHz frequencies lead to significantly improved connection quality here. In contrast, the gigabit bandwidths usually associated with 5G play a rather subordinate role for the communication supply of railroads.

Further options and implementation

Another interesting option is “Network Slicing”, which can, for example, offer transport companies a guaranteed quality of service. However, today’s mobile networks (or 5G cores) are not yet ready for this. This approach also competes with the use of several parallel mobile networks, which also bridges gaps in coverage and reduces dependencies on individual providers. In addition to the routers for 5G, the switch to large 4×4 MIMO antennas (and cables) is particularly important in terms of costs.

The information compiled from the market analysis helps BLS to concretize its roll-out plans and incorporate them into their implementation.