THE AUSTRALIAN Rail Track Corporation has announced upgrades to its national train communications system (NTCS).

ARTC plans to roll out 4G capability for all services across the 8500-kilometre network by June 2024, with upgrades to more than 3000 communications units across the network.

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

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

ARTC group executive engineering and systems Brad Moorhouse said the coverage update would 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,” he 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.”

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 the additional locations included in Telstra’s upgrade works would provide improved mobile phone coverage for remote communities.

ARTC said it is working with customers to ensure they are supporting the transition through the upgrade of 1600 units that are on their locomotives to ICE units by Base2.