Rhein-Ruhr Express will be first train worldwide with the cost-effective and maintenance new technology
Siemens has announced the world’s first train in series production that will feature a new radio-frequency windowpane solution designed to improve mobile phone reception.
The technology will be incorporated on the Rhein-Ruhr Express (RRX), a digitised train for Germany’s Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region. Seven pre-series of the RRX will be commissioned and complete extensive tests in the coming months before undertaking their first test runs in the public railway network. The RRX is scheduled to enter service at the end of 2018.
The new windows on the RRX will allow radio waves to pass through up to 500 times more easily than is the case with conventional thermal insulation glazing, Siemens claims. As a result, passengers will be able, for the first time, to surf the Internet and make telephone calls freely without the need for special cellular-signal amplifiers (in-train repeaters).
Train operators will also profit from the new technology: in new vehicles, the windowpane solution is significantly more cost-effective than installing in-train repeaters.
Without repeater modules in the carriages, it has been difficult to achieve good cellular reception in many trains. These reception issues are caused by the vehicles’ windowpanes, whose metallic coating provides protection against heat and solar radiation.
Unfortunately, heat and solar rays are not the only things that the windowpanes reflect. Other electro-magnetic waves are also blocked. As a result, the cars act like Faraday cages. In high-speed trains, blockage is 99.9 effective, said Siemens.
Siemens researchers in Vienna have developed a special windowpane coating that allows radio signals to pass through unhindered. This is made possible by a fine pattern that the scientists apply with the help of lasers to the panes’ electrically conductive, transparent layer.
“This approach massively improves signal-reception levels for mobile terminal devices in trains,” said Lukas Mayer, project head at Siemens Corporate Technology.
“In high-speed trains, our solution enables us to increase signal strength in cellular frequency bands by at least 50 times. The panes also allow all frequencies useful for mobile communication to pass through. What’s more, future mobile standards like 5G will be immediately available without additional investment.”
According to Siemens, the technology will also pay off for train operators. The windowpanes can be used for decades without maintenance. They are easy to install and – unlike in-train repeaters – require no electric current.
In new vehicles, they are also more cost-effective. Existing cars can be retrofitted at any time. The panes can be installed in all rail vehicles with thermal protective glazing: the fine pattern in the coating is almost invisible.
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