What will the railway systems be like in 20 years? Surely they’ll be more automatized, but what sort of requirements will they have? How will the coming traffic control systems be efficient and safe at the same time? Magister is participating in solving these questions by developing a new air interface for future railway control communications as part of the European Space Agency’s SAIRCC project.


The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) is an initiative supported by the EU and targeted to improve safety and increasing interoperability of rail transport in Europe. Rail transport will be improved through a Europe-wide standard for train control and command systems, replacing existing national systems. Though, the true need of change is even wider.

– ERTMS consists of two parts: the European Train Control System (ETCS) and GSM-R. ETCS is an automatic train protection system, which provides an in-cab train control. GSM-R, on the other hand, is a 2G radio system based on GSM for voice and data communications between the train and trackside. The current terrestrial communication system GSM-R is getting outdated and the risk of saturation is getting higher, explains Magister Solutions’ Research Director Janne Kurjenniemi.

European railway systems need to be updated. The European Commission has tasked the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) to launch a full-scale investigation, the Evolution of Railway Radio programme, to find out the future requirements. European Space Agency will review those requirements from the space sector point of view and aims to develop a satellite air interface capable of addressing those needs.

Magister Solutions develops a satellite air interface

As a part of the programme, Magister Solutions participates in European Space Agency’s (ESA) project Satellite Air Interface for Railway Control Communications (SAIRCC) on development of a new air interface for railway control communications.

– The resulting air interface needs to be compatible with 5G networks given that 5G terrestrial networks are expected to also provide services for railway control communications in commercially viable geographical locations, Kurjenniemi says.

SAIRCC project consists of four partners, of which Sitael is responsible for the project management and development of Software Defined Radio (SDR) based demonstrator. Thales Alenia Space Italy is in charge of the capacity analysis and development of the air interface. University of Salzburg analyzes rail transport and creates forecasts for growth of the traffic and its requirements for railway control communications together with Thales Alenia Space Italy.

The performance of the resulting air interface will be validated through realistic packet-level simulations conducted by Magister:

– Our job is to build the simulator and evaluate the performance of the resulting air interface. There will be lots of analysing of the existing railways, used technologies and all sorts of future scenarios. We will build up a traffic scenario and find the best solution to fulfill future railways’ needs.

Finally, the project will develop and validate a prototype implementation of the resulting air interface in a Software Defined Radio (SDR) platform targeted for railway control communications.

Better understanding for future simulator needs

The Evolution of Railway Radio programme will be launched step by step: the draft requirements, the technology selection and the radio spectrum allocation will be published in 2021; the testing and the validation will happen 2022–2024; and for the first commercial operation will happen from 2025.

The SAIRCC project started in June 2020 and it will end in March 2022. It creates options to include the satellite industry to the future railway mobile communication systems. According to Kurjenniemi, Magister Solutions own simulator SimLab is in the middle of the evolution:

– The air interface for future railway control communications is a great example to which Magister SimLab can be used. We will use our knowledge to create the best possible railway air interface and also use the accumulated knowledge to develop our own simulator even further, Kurjenniemi explains.


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  • Magister is developing a simulator of a satellite air interface for future railway mobile communication systems as part of ESA’s SAIRCC project.
  • The resulting air interface will be compatible with 5G solutions.
  • Magister SimLab works as a base of development work.
  • The SAIRCC project started in June 2020 and it will end in March 2022.

Keywords: SimLab, SAIRCC, 5G, railway, ESA