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Evo-rail’s rail-5G is a solution engineered by the best of Britain’s academics and engineers.
First Group has been working with the University of Bristol over the last 5 years, supported by the Department for Transport, to address the lack of mobile data coverage on the railways.
Since then, evo-rail, a rail telecoms company formed out of FirstGroup, has developed ‘rail-5G’, a mmWave technology which can meet the ever-growing demand by rail customers for high-speed connectivity by being able to provide over 1Gbps constant connectivity to trains.



The first incarnation of rail-5G came in 2016 when Prof. Andrew Nix combined beamforming technology with Fixed Wireless Access in the mmWave band to demonstrate transmitting almost a gigabit on to a moving train. This spawned multiple consortiums that ended in FirstGroup leading the Dali trials.



Whilst Mantra was a collection of components and a proof of concept, the Dali trials were to test the first generation radio system developed from Mantra in a fully functioning railway. This taught us that whilst the radio might work, networking the traffic and delivering it in a safe and cost effective way would be a greater challenge. We proved the radio was capable of over a gigabit throughput, but we urgently needed on-train integration and a trackside network, let alone a doubling of the radio’s segments range.





The Degas Programme is now nearing its completion and was about integration: on-train and trackside, whilst upgrading to the new second generation radio equipment. Degas is to proceed to the first commercial rollout which will be on one of the world’s busiest railways, South West Railways (SWR). This will start in 2021 following the final stress testing of rail-5G ahead of Network Rail’s Product Acceptance, trackside and train design approvals and compliance with a dizzying array of European health and safety regulations.