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The Evolution and Impact of New

Wireless Communications Technologies
on Mass Transit Railway Systems
INTRODUCTION will be generated. Alternatively, the system can be
financed by the MTR, the Government, or private
Radio Frequency (RF) wireless services within mass investors with the return on investment provided by user
transit railway (MTR) underground areas were once fees charged to the service providers. The commercial
confined to mobile radio systems that provided essential services RF distribution system can either be new and
voice communications for railway operational and independent or overlaid on an existing or new essential
emergency services personnel. Older systems use services system. The evolution and trend of commercial
conventional mobile radio protocol and operate with a wireless service technologies that require RF distribution
small number of narrowband voice channels in separate systems within the MTR must be well understood to
carrier frequency bands below 450 MHz. More recent minimize the financing requirements and maximize the
systems use trunked mobile radio (TMR) protocol and return on investment.
operate at carrier frequencies in the 450 MHz and 900
MHz bands. Since life threatening situations can be WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGIES
involved and maintenance access is severely limited in
the MTR running tunnels, extensive and costly equipment Unlike the relatively stable technology of conventional
redundancy may be required to assure reliability, and trunked mobile radio systems, commercial
survivability in the event of a disaster, and 24-hour-a-day communications services are in a state of continuous
availability. The costs of the required RF distribution technological evolution. For this reason, care must be
systems are borne entirely by the railways. taken to assure that a RF distribution system designed
for a MTR is not obsolete before it is completed.
Competition for cellular telephone and paging service Provision must be made for the addition of future
customers has now driven the service providers to seek services if return on capital investment is to be
access to MTR patrons as they roam freely within the maximized. Wireless communications technology trends
public access areas of the stations and as they ride the must be understood with regard to the RF distribution
trains in the tunnels. Because these commercial system design considerations if costly equipment
ser vices usually do not involve life threatening replacement or modification is to be avoided when new
situations, extensive and costly equipment redundancy services are added. The plethora of commercial
is usually not required and, with a large enough services (excluding paging) and their evolution from
customer base of MTR patrons, one or a group of analog to digital modulation, to higher carrier frequency
commercial service providers can finance the required bands, and to different bandwidths is illustrated in the
RF distribution system from the increased revenues that following tables:

Analog Cellular Telephones


Advanced Mobile Phone Service Total Access Communication System Nordic Mobile Telephone
(MHz) Tx: 824-849 Rx: 916-949 Rx: 463-468
Tx: 871-904 Tx: 453-458
Rx: 860-870 Rx: 935-960
Tx: 915-925 Tx: 890-915



NTACS: 400 NMT-900: 1999
CHANNEL SPACING 30 kHz ETACS: 25 kHz NMT-450: 25 kHz
NTACAS: 12.5 kHz NMT-900: 12.5 kHz

BIT RATE n/a n/a n/a

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Digital Cellular Telephones

STANDARD IS-54/-136 IS-95 GSM DCS 1800

North American Digital Cellular North American Digital Cellular Global System for PDC
Mobile Communications Personal Digital
MOBILE FREQUENCY RANGE Rx: 869-894 Rx: 869-894 Rx:935-960 Rx:1805-1880 Cellular
(MHz) Tx: 824-849 Tx:824-849 Tx: 890-915 Tx:1710-1785 Rx:810-826



832 20 124 374 1600
NUMBER OF CHANNELS (3 users/channel) (798 users/channels) (8 users/channels) (8 users/channels) (3 users/channels)
200 kHz 25 kHz
CHANNEL SPACING 30 kHz 1250 kHz 200 kHz
MODULATION B/4 DQPSK QPSK/OQPSK (0.3 Gaussian Filter) (0.3 Gaussian Filter)

BIT RATE 48.6 kb/s 1.2288 Mb/s 270.833 kb/s 270.833 kb/s 42 kb/s

Personal Communications Systems

STANDARD High Tier Standards Low Tier Standards

MOBILE FREQUENCY RANGE Rx:1930-1990 Rx: 1930-1990

(MHz) Tx: 1850-1910 Tx: 1850-1910


(based on IS-95) (based on PHS)
NUMBER OF CHANNELS (based on IS-95) (based on DECT)


(based on GSM)
Wideband CDMA

Analog Cordless Telephones


Cordless Telephone 0 Japanese Cordless Telephone Cordless Telephone
MOBILE FREQUENCY RANGE 2/48 (U.K.) 254/380 CTI: 915-960
(MHz) 26/41 (France) CTI+: 885/932
30/39 (Australia)
31/40 (The Netherlands, Spain)
46/49 (China, S. Korea, Taiwan, USA)
48/74 45/48 (China)


NUMBER OF CHANNELS 10, 12, 15, or 20 89 CTI: 40

CTI+: 80
CHANNEL SPACING 1.7, 20, 25, or 40 kHz 12.5 kHz 25 kHz


BIT RATE n/a n/a n/a

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Digital Cordless Telephones


Cordless Telephone 2 Digital European Cordless Telephone Personal Handy Phone System
MOBILE FREQUENCY RANGE CT2: 864-868 1880-1990 1895-1918
(MHz) CT2+:944/948




(12 users/channels) (4 users/channels)
CHANNEL SPACING 100 kHz 1.728 kHz 300 kHz


(0.5 Gaussian Filter) (0.5 Gaussian Filter)
BIT RATE 72 kb/s 1.152 Mb/s 384 kb/s

Wireless Data (WAN/LAN)


Cellular Digital Packet Data (WAN) (WAN) Wireless LAN
MOBILE FREQUENCY RANGE Rx: 869-894 (North America) Rx:851-869 (North America/Europe)
(MHz) Tx: 824-849 Rx: 869-894 Tx: 806-824 2400-2483
Tx:824-849 (Japan)
(Europe/Asia) 2470-2499


NUMBER OF CHANNELS 832 480 720 FHSS: 79 / DSSS: 7

CHANNEL SPACING 30 kHz 12.5 kHz 25 kHz DSSS: 11 MHz


(0.5 Gaussian Filter) (0.3 Gaussian Filter) (2 and 4 level) DSSS: DBPSK (1/MB/s) DQPSK (2MB/s)
BIT RATE 19.2 kb/s 8 kb/s 19.2 kb/s 1 OR 2 MB/s

AVAILABLE RF SPECTRUM is paging services, which are considered here as the

secondary, but still very important, commercial service
The radio spectrum is a limited and valuable natural of interest. Although there are significant regional dif-
resource and allocations for its use are authorized by ferences, paging services generally operate in lower
local governmental regulatory authorities who are, in carrier frequency bands such as the 172 MHz and 280
most cases, signatories to cooperative international MHz bands licensed for paging use in Hong Kong.
agreements. The resulting allocations for commercial
wireless communications use are generally complex As illustrated by the preceding tables, international
and, for certain services, vary from country to country technical standards for many commercial wireless
(e.g. paging). Because of the market size and high services have been agreed and new standards are in
associated revenue per user, the primary commercial preparation. Salient underlying trends in the evolution of
services of interest here are cellular telephone, digital these services are from analog to digital modulation, the
cordless telephone, and PCS which are licensed for addition of service bands that operate at higher carrier
use in allocated carrier frequency bands between 850 frequencies, and the introduction of technologies that
MHz and 2,500 MHz (2.5 GHz). The emerging PCS require increased useful bandwidths. Evolution in this
services operate in the high end of that range and it is latter category has resulted in standard technologies
there that competition for spectrum has dramatically dri- that require useful bandwidths of 12.5 kHz (NTACS),
ven up the cost of obtaining licenses. Another large 200 kHz (GSM) and, most recently 1,250 kHz (CDMA).
market, but with a lower associated revenue per user, The driving force behind this evolution is the service

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(above the license fee), the RF environment within the

enclosed areas of mass transit railway systems and rail
providers quest for the capacity to serve more and
roads does not naturally exist and must be created. It
more customers in a limited RF spectrum allocation and
has been demonstrated that the most efficient and cost
it is reasonable to assume that these evolutionary
effective method of creating an appropriate RF environ-
trends will continue.
ment within the enclosed areas of mass transit systems
is through the use of a truly distributed antenna system
Depending on local licensing, many of these services,
such as that provided by radiating coaxial cable.
along with essential mobile radio and paging services,
Radiating cable is inherently broadband and will support
must coexist in a limited RF spectrum and, in the case
multiple narrowband services, up to and including IS-95
of the underground portions of a MTR, in a confined
CDMA, over the entire range of allocated wireless
physical environment. Because of the potential of inter-
service bands from below 80 MHz to above 2.5 GHz..
service interference in this crowded environment, the
Further, the use of radiating cable provides a much
specific definition of how many and which services
more uniform distribution of the down-link signal and
require support in a MTR underground RF distribution
collection of the up-link signal than the use of point
system, both initially and in the future, is a major design
source antennas. With radiating cable, there are fewer, if
consideration. Only when armed with that information,
any, hot spots with the result being that the required
and a thorough understanding of the spectrum alloca-
amplifiers must contend with a lower dynamic range
tions and service characteristics, can a system be
(ratio of the strongest to the weakest signal), thereby
designed that will provide users with interference free ser-
simplifying the design requirements. Further, blockage
vice. Interference free service translates to satisfied
of point source antennas by trains as they pass the
customers and continued or increasing revenue,
antenna locations can effectively black out service in
upon which system financing is based. The impact of
front of the train, an especially onerous situation in the
failure to provide interference free service, either initially
event of any type of incident that would have a train
or when services are added, is costly equipment
stopped in the tunnel. For these and other reasons, radi-
replacement or modification.
ating coaxial cable has become the medium of choice
for distributing multiple narrow band wireless services
into the normally adverse RF environment of the under-
ground portions of mass transit railway systems.
There is an almost insatiable demand for more and
more commercial service communications channels
because of a dramatic and continuing increase in the
number of people who expect to have untethered
Given the comprehensive plan that includes how many
(wireless) access to telephone, data, and paging ser-
and what services are to be supported, both now and in
vices. This demand represents a huge and increasing
the foreseeable future, along with their technical char-
source of user revenue to service providers, the salient
acteristics, the first step in the design process is select-
difference between essential mobile radio services and
ing (or designing) the optimum radiating cable (or
commercial services. It is this revenue potential that is
cables) that will provide the required RF coverage within
fueling both the increasing value of licensed allocations
the physical boundaries of the underground portion of
of the radio spectrum and dramatic improvements in
the MTR.
technology. This is a global phenomena for above
ground (outdoor) users but does not end there. Once
Constant Coupling Loss Cable
patrons have access to a level of above ground service
that meets their expectations, they insist on that same
A key element in the optimization process deals with
level of access where ever they roam, including into obtaining a minimum link loss. Link loss refers to the
areas that are not well served by line of sight radio combination of the axial loss of the cable and the
wave propagation, such as the interiors of buildings and coupling loss (signal loss from the radiating cable to the
tunnels. All three service areas (outdoors, inside buildings, portable antenna). At any given frequency, conventional
and in tunnels) are involved in mass transit railway systems. radiating cable exhibits a coupling loss that is constant
along the cables length when measured at a specified
distance from the cable. The axial loss is also constant
CREATING THE RF ENVIRONMENT but only on a specified unit of length (per 100 feet or per
100 meters) basis. In combination, the link loss, being
Unlike above ground, where the RF environment is the sum, will vary in an essentially linearly increasing
physically accessible to all licensed operators at no cost manner when measured as the difference in signal level

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quency ranges (such as 3:1) typically results in a com-

promise in the performance at the lower frequencies, by
received at the portable antenna compared to the signal
an increase in the coupling loss.
level measured in the cable at the head end.
Conventional radiating cable is appropriate for many
The tuned cable will typically have higher efficiencies
applications and is in wide use throughout the world. Its
than the untuned cable. This is because the untuned
primary advantage is for use in systems that require
cable incurs additional losses on the outer jacket of the
that the cable performance is the same, regardless of
cable. The degree of losses in the untuned cable
which end of the cable is driven (the head end).
depends on slot geometry and pattern.
However, it is far from the only type of radiating cable
available to the system designer.
Coherent Bandwidth
Constant Link Loss Cable
Historically, there has been only a limited requirement in
the telecommunications field for radiating cables with
In applications which do not require that the radiating
large coherent bandwidth. The majority of the mobile
cable must have a uniform coupling loss throughout the
and cellular communications require a maximum band-
span, the cable can have a variable (graded) coupling
width of 30 kHz. With the advent of GSM, the required
loss and achieve significantly longer coverage spans
bandwidth increased 7 fold, to 200 kHz. The current
with the same set of driver electronics. To offset the lin-
CDMA standard will increase this by another factor of 6
early increasing axial loss inherent in any given length
to 1.25 MHz. While the coherent bandwidth of a tuned
of radiating cable, the coupling loss can be varied in an
cable is superior to that of untuned cable, several
inverse manner with the result being that the sum of the
operational systems have demonstrated the effectiveness
two is a constant. The variable coupling loss can be
of untuned cable in GSM applications. Essentially, no
achieved by use of step grading the cable or by using a
degradation in GSM performance is observable relative
continuous grading. The advantage of this type of cable
to the CW performance of the untuned radiating cable.
is a uniform signal level along the cable length. The dis-
advantage is that the cable must be designed for specif-
Limited tests have been conducted on both types of
ic span lengths and it will not perform equally well when
cable with a CDMA system requiring 1.25 MHz of
driven from either end.
bandwidth. In these tests, there was no discernable sys-
tem degradation when using the untuned cable as com-
Tuned Cable
pared to the tuned cable. This will not be the case if and
when systems requiring significantly larger coherent
Tuned cable has several distinct advantages over the
bandwidth than 1.25 MHz are deployed. The emerging
use of an untuned cable. These advantages include
wireless data services may well have this requirement
improved efficiency, wider coherent bandwidth and less
and consideration of that potential should be given in
degradation due to multipath. The use of the name
the radiating cable selection process.
tuned cable is somewhat of a misnomer, as it implies
that the performance of the cable is satisfactory within
Environmental Effects
only a narrowband. This is not necessarily the case, as
cables with bandwidth ratios of 3 to 1 have been
All radiating cable manufacturers specify coupling
designed and delivered in a number of applications. As
losses as representative of what could be achieved in a
such, the cable is effective in distributing multiple
non-contained area (free space). The coupling loss that
wideband signals simultaneously. It is also possible to
would be experienced in a confined area such as a
use the tuned cable below the lower cutoff frequency
tunnel would in most cases be less than in free space.
where it performs in the same manner as a typical
This decrease in coupling loss is a result of the modal
untuned radiating coaxial cable.
nature of the tunnel. These effects typically result in
reductions in the coupling loss on the order of 10 to 15 dB.
For applications which require a relatively narrow
bandwidth such as 10 to 20 percent of the center
There are many factors which will affect the effective
frequency, a tuned cable has the distinct advantage in
coupling loss, these include the size, shape, wall materials
that it can be tailored to the specific application. Optimization
and the presence of re-radiating material within the
of the axial losses and the coupling losses will result in
tunnel. Typically a metal tunnel will cause the effective
the overall best performance for a given core cable. This
coupling loss to decrease by about 10 dB relative to a
optimization can include a variable coupling loss to off-
similar tunnel which uses concrete wall construction. For
set the increase in axial loss over the span of the cable.
concrete tunnels, the amount of rebar used to reinforce
The optimization of coupling losses over broader fre-
the tunnel will have a significant effect at the lower

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with the potential for a significant cost impact.

frequencies, but the influence will be much less
pronounced at frequencies above 800 MHz. In addition,
the size, shape and the material of the train will have an
influence on the energy transferred from the cable.
When it is required to communicate inside the train,
then the amount of penetration, and the degree of
absorption inside the train will have a significant
influence on the effective coupling loss which is

Variance of the Received Signal Level

The fields produced by a conventional radiating coaxial

cable exhibit a significant amount of multipath. The dis-
tribution of the measured coupling loss on a path paral-
lel to the cable exhibits a Rayleigh like characteristic.
These distribution statistics are similar to what exists in Figure 1
a multipath-rich environment when using a conventional Cascaded Distributed Bidirectional Amplifiers Feeding a Dual
antenna. Multipath produces a series of nulls in the Bore Tunnel
power received. The null to null spacing varies consid-
erably and is dependant on a number of factors.
Typically the nulls are about one wavelength apart. This
multipath effect can be significantly reduced by the use
of a tuned cable. The array effect of a tuned cable
essentially launches the energy at a given angle relative
to the cable and thus reduces the potential of being
effected by multipath. This clean response is somewhat
negated when the cable is installed in tunnels/buildings
where various propagation modes and reflections are

Theoretical Performance versus Testing

Figure 2
Because of the almost unlimited variations in the Fiber Optic Driven T-Feed Driving a Dual Bore Tunnel
environmental factors that affect RF propagation in
Once the type of radiating cable that will support RF
confined areas, precisely quantifying the operational
distribution of the required and planned services has
performance of radiating cables in the underground
been selected, the most cost effective distribution
areas of MTRs has so far proven to be an intractable
system architecture can be determined. For RF distribu-
theoretical problem, especially as wireless communications
tion in tunnels, there are basically two choices as shown
technologies move to higher carrier frequencies and
below in Figure 1 and Figure 2.
wider bandwidth modulation techniques. Radiating cable
manufacturers design their products with a theoretical
The use of distributed bidirectional amplifiers in the
basis and test them at essentially free space test
cascade architecture has an advantage in systems
ranges and other idealized enclosed areas that simulate
which require the utmost in communications availability.
a necessarily small number of in-tunnel environments.
This demand occurs when emergency radio services are
The resulting data and specifications are a valuable tool
required in the event of a natural disaster or an accident
for the system designer but only serve as an indicator of
within the tunnel which causes the cable(s) to be
what the actual performance may be in a real MTR.
severed. In the architecture of Figure 1, it is possible to
Field testing in the real MTR environment remains the
configure the system to detect the break in the cable and
only method for quantifying performance with sufficient
then feed energy to both sides of the cable break. This
accuracy to assure customer satisfaction. Failure to
preserves the communications capability for emergency
perform adequate field testing prior to finalizing sys-
and rescue operations. In this type of a system, it is
tem design and implementation can result in the require-
highly desirable for the cables to have a uniform coupling
ment for extensive redesign and equipment modification
loss throughout the entire span so that communications

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10500 W. 153rd Street, Orland Park, IL U.S.A. 60462 PR32-02 15 May 1996 Page 6 of 8

providers fuels the development and implementation of

new wireless communications technologies to serve
can be passed equally well in either direction.
more and more customers above ground, that same
competition is driving service providers to the desire to
Where systems do not require communications under
extend service access to their customers as they roam
such adverse conditions, the T-Feed architecture of
freely in the public access areas of MTR stations and as
Figure 2, combined with a cable which has a variable
they ride the trains in the tunnels. The associated cost
coupling loss throughout the span, has distinct
to satisfy this desire is the sum of the cost of additional
communication advantages. These advantages include
service providers equipment and the cost of the sys-
a smaller dynamic range, uniform coverage, lower initial
tem that will create the required RF support environment in
costs and a more reliable system since fewer amplifiers (or lower
the MTR underground areas. That cost, unlike the cost
power amplifiers) are required to cover a given cable span.
associated with extending essential services, must ulti-
As in the case of the cascade architecture, it is also
mately be borne by the users. The aggregate addi-
possible to use conventional constant coupling loss
tional revenue generated by this service extension must
cable, tuned cable, or cable that has wider coherent
be sufficient to allow provision for an attractive return on
bandwidth support capability in the T-Feed architecture.
the required system investment. The source of that
In addition, depending on the topography, some or all of
investment may be one or a group of service providers,
the T- Feed cable branches can include cascaded bidi-
the MTR, the Government, or an outside investor or
rectional amplifiers to extend the effective length of the
group of investors. To maximize the probability that a
associated cable span. If fiber optic cable is not avail-
return on investment sufficient to attract investors can
able or cost prohibitive to install for driving the T-Feed
be achieved, the RF distribution system cost must be
configuration, conventional coaxial cable can be used
minimized , without sacrifice in service quality, to a level
for that purpose. In case an essential services cascade
that will allow the service providers to collectively and
architecture is already in place in the tunnels of a MTR,
profitably provide that return and remain competitive.
a commercial services T-Feed architecture can be
electronically overlaid on the cascade architecture to
With respect to the newer communications technologies,
avoid the cost of procuring and installing separate radi-
the users cost expectations are roughly more is better
ating cables. In that instance, the size and type of cable
and better is cheaper. Other than the possible lack of
will have been predetermined and not necessarily opti-
availability, why else would they be interested ? Overall,
mized for the commercial services.
this is perhaps the most difficult expectation for the ser-
vice providers to satisfy since the price of spectrum
(licenses) has dramatically increased at the same time
the cost of technology development is being incurred. To
make matters worse, now there is the added cost of
If the number of services that must coexist within the
extending those services to MTR underground areas
MTR underground areas is too large, the services are
that are not naturally well served by line of sight radio
too closely spaced in frequency (either fundamental
propagation. Fortunately, the major cost of bringing the
frequencies or harmonic frequencies) , or service types
new technology services on stream is justified by the
are too disparate in power levels to allow interference
magnitude of the above ground market.
free operation of all supported services, some means
isolation must be employed. Electronic filtering becomes
The above ground RF spectrum is a limited national
expensive if the degree of required isolation is large and
resource and access to it constitutes a level playing field on
physical isolation may be the most cost effective solu-
which service providers can compete for customers. All ser-
tion. Physical isolation can be achieved by installing
vice providers face the same problem of providing their cus-
separate radiating cables to support different groups of
tomers with an attractive perceived value for their services
services or the down links and up links for all supported
and competition is continually driving them to seek differen-
services. In addition to providing additional isolation,
tiators, real or perceived. Customer access to their services
separation of the down and up links has the advantage
in underground areas, which are generally not a national
that the required amplifiers can be unidirectional rather
resource, can be an important real differentiator if the owner
than bidirectional, a circumstance that somewhat offsets
of that area allow unequal access to service providers. If one
the additional cable cost.
service provider gains that access, the competitors will seek
access to restore a level playing field, but only if they and
their customers perceive a value to that access. MTR own-
ers and operators may have a financially attractive opportu-
nity to establish and maintain that level playing field as com-
As competition amongst licensed commercial service
petition drives service providers to provide underground

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implementation of RF Distribution systems for

enclosed areas, such as the underground portions of
access for their customers that are also MTR patrons. Local
mass transit railway systems, must have a thorough
wireless communications user demographics and RF distrib-
knowledge of both communications technology and
ution system design and implementation costs will deter-
the electrophysics of RF propagation from radiating
mine whether or not this opportunity is attractive and, if so,
coaxial cables. That knowledge must extend over a
its magnitude. While the MTR has little ability to influence the
broad range of frequencies and coherent bandwidth
user demographics, they can choose a source for the
requirements and include recognition of the direction
required RF distribution system that has all of the prerequi-
communications technology is taking as it evolves. In
sites for the most cost effective implementation.
addition, because of the extremely wide range of
physical circumstances in which the RF distribution
system must operate, much of that knowledge must
The most cost effective source for the design and
be gained from practical experience and field mea-

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