The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is rolling out a 4G capability upgrade to its National Train Communications System (NTCS), which is expected to be completed by June 2024. 

The NTCS utilises the Telstra mobile network and In Cab Equipment (ICE) units to provide train to network control communications on the ARTC network nationally. 

The NTCS upgrade will provide additional communications service options and increased capability for ARTC and train operators and will ensure that network equipment is prepared for a 5G upgrade in the future. 

Telstra managed NTCS upgrade works are being undertaken at 81 locations across the country and includes nine additional mobile tower sites and 13 tunnel upgrades. Some of these additional locations will provide further community benefits in the form of improved mobile phone coverage in remote areas. 

ARTC is also working with customers to ensure they’re supporting the transition through the upgrade of 1,600 units that are on their locomotives to ICE units by Base2, so that they can continue moving goods and people around Australia.  

ARTC Group Executive Engineering and Systems, Brad Moorhouse, said that the Telstra 4G coverage update will primarily support train to train control communications, network maintenance staff, and network control on both freight and passenger services across the ARTC network. 

“It is imperative that we keep up with technology changes to improve resilience and services for our rail systems, as we look ahead to the next stage of 5G,” Mr Moorhouse said.  

“It is fantastic to see the co-ordinated rail industry approach upgrading their ICE units, including freight, passenger, maintenance, and heritage fleets, with 4G technology now in operation across the network. 

“The upgrade ensures the continued provision of the interoperable communications system to provide a single, interoperable, and reliable method of operational voice communications between train crew and Network Controllers across large parts of Australia.” 

Featured image: A remote 4G communications tower. Image credit: ARTC.

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