Solving Large Coverage Area Challenges

Organizations that rely on radio communications often have massive operation areas – entire districts or states. Ensuring consistent coverage over these areas creates unique challenges. In this article, we look at how Tait solutions solve coverage problems for two very different transport agencies.

Rail transport agencies face some extreme communication challenges. Their assets – trains full of passengers and cargo – are moving at tremendous speeds, over a vast area. Maintaining coverage through varied terrain, rural and urban areas, and different distances from radio sites, introduces a series of engineering and technology problems.

Let’s compare two unique examples: TriMet, in Portland, Oregon, and TasRail in Tasmania, Australia.

The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) is the sole provider of mass transit across the Portland Metro region of Oregon, USA. TriMet has an average weekday ridership of about 322,000 passengers, operating across 1,426 light rail vehicles, buses, and paratransit vehicles.

While TriMet focuses primarily on the transportation of people across the greater Portland area, TasRail specializes in the transport of raw materials and fuel in Tasmania, Australia.

Tasmanian Rail (TasRail) operates the main-line railways in the southern Australian state. TasRail is a short-haul rail freight business; owning and operating on the fixed track infrastructure transporting raw materials along the beautiful landscape of Tasmania.

Unique Challenges

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had given an order requiring TriMet to narrow-band their analog UHF system. As about half of the radios used on that system were being leased from the City of Portland, TriMet decided to transition to a single TriMet-owned radio system providing them with the interoperability required to communicate with related agencies. TriMet needed a system that would reliably support and enhance worker safety for employees across their entire network, and they reached out to Tait to design this network.

While TriMet focussed on improving their communications infrastructure to the benefit of employee safety and efficiency, TasRail took a different approach towards their logistics operations.

Bringing in a new train control system (TCS) meant TasRail needed a digital communications network to transport data between the control system servers and computers fitted to locomotives and other track vehicles. Their existing Tait analog mobile radio network could not do this but the rail company was keen to continue working with Tait Communications.

Two very different rail organizations, both with a need to migrate from the limitations of analog radio to the data capability of digital radio. Each selected different solutions to meet their needs.

Unique Solutions

 As a part of TriMet’s communications infrastructure upgrade, a 7-site P25 trunked solution was implemented, powered by Tait base stations alongside Tait P25 mobile and and portable radios; differing greatly from TasRail’s 10-site DMR Tier 3 trunked digital data network, packed data capability and managed by the EnableMonitor software. These upgrades were necessary to address concerns of futureproofing and redundancy that came from previously using analog communications systems.

Although TasRail & TriMet are two organizations in the same industry, they made different technology choices that best suited their operations. P25 & DMR Tier 3 have a myriad of uses beyond the stated uses for TriMet and TasRail.

Opting to move forward with a P25 based solution, TriMet could leverage interoperability with their local first responders. This is especially useful when transporting their 322,000 weekly passengers ensuring passenger and personnel safety alongside minimizing any disruption to the transport network.

Working with a DMR Tier 3 comms system, TasRail would be able to fully utilize data services available like GeoFencing and Fast polling. These services would allow TasRail’s fleet to be tracked in real time via satellite positioning and their communications areas can be easily defined through GeoFencing. These services would provide the means for TasRail to receive accurate logistics information around departure and arrival times of goods alongside circumventing transit delays.

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