Mamuni Das
Thomas K. Thomas

New Delhi, Oct 15

Even as cellular operators are clamouring for more spectrum, the Railways has sought a dedicated wireless frequency from the Wireless Planning Commission (WPC) for installation of its GSM-R equipment.

While the WPC has allocated eight pairs of frequency band by asking commercial mobile operators to make way in some areas, the Railways has sought 13 pairs for its projects that envisage improving the safety of its operations.

The move comes even as the Defence forces have sought a dedicated band for their communication purposes.

GSM-R is a wireless communications technology standard under the GSM umbrella, but developed specifically for Railways' communication needs.

It provides a private communications network between the train staff (driver and guard) and the operations staff, even at high speeds.

The Railways is already implementing GSM-R equipment rollout in some sections; the first GSM-R-based project is likely to be commissioned by December in the Howrah-Dhanbad section.

When contacted, a senior DoT official said that it could not accommodate the entire demand made by Railways since the 900 MHz band is also being used by cellular operators.

However, Railway Ministry sources said: "While eight pairs is fine for rail lines with relatively low traffic density, we would need 13 pairs of frequency for our junctions which have higher density."

The Ministry has requested that these frequencies be reserved across the country for its use as they would be required for other zones in case the Railways decides to move for wide scale GSM-R adoption based on the outcome of pilot projects not just in the current IR network but in newer freight or passenger lines that would be built later.

The Railways is installing GSM-R equipment in Howrah-Dhanbad, Guwahati-Jalpaiguri-Katihar, Dhanbad-Mugal Sarai, Mugal Sarai-Ghaziabad, Delhi-Amritsar and Delhi-Jammu Tawi sections.

Meanwhile, the Railways is in talks with WPC for deciding the licence fees.

"Since we are not using spectrum for commercial purposes, we are in talks with WPC as well as the Defence to work out a fee structure different from what exists for the telecom operators," said official sources.

They said that the exact fee structure for the Railways and Defence has not yet been firmed up as talks were still on.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated October 16, 2006)
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