Students Staff

22 April 2014

“Revolutionary” data communication speeds set to be achieved on UK train network thanks to University of Essex and LPA partnership

A revolutionary increase in data communication speeds for rail passengers using smart phones, laptops or tablets is set to be delivered thanks to a partnership between the University of Essex and electronic and electro mechanical systems specialist LPA based in Saffron Walden.

Find our more about KTPs at the University of Essex

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between LPA and the University has been developing and testing high-speed Ethernet connectors and backbones for trains, including inter-car jumpers – the systems for carrying electrical circuits between train carriages.

KTPs help businesses to improve their competitiveness by working with universities to obtain knowledge, technology or skills which they consider to be of strategic competitive importance. The UK-wide programme is overseen by the Technology Strategy Board.

The Partnership is delivering such a huge leap in performance that LPA products will potentially meet passenger needs for the next two decades and ‘future proof’ the Wi-Fi and information systems on trains around the world.

The project has already delivered commercial results with Nomad Digital awarding LPA the contract to supply Ethernet inter-car Jumpers for its project to install Wi-Fi for passengers on all First Great Western High Speed Train (HST) and Night Riviera sleeper fleets.

The jumpers specified are 10GbE-Ready Jumpers which are capable of transmitting 10Gbit/s over copper cabling. This is 100 times faster than present train data communications and over 50 times faster than the latest 152 Mbit/s download speeds being offered by some home broadband providers.

As part of the partnership KTP Associate Geza Koczian, who is completing a Masters by Dissertation at Essex, is working at LPA with Professor Stuart Walker from the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering providing expert oversight.

Professor Walker, from the School, said: “We are fortunate to have an exceptional Essex student, Geza Koczian, working on this project and we have achieved fantastic results.

“We carried out a detailed electromagnetic analysis and identified improvements which deliver 100 times better performance.

“This revolutionises the data communication speeds which are possible on trains and could future-proof the Wi-Fi and information systems they use to meet passenger needs for the next 20 years.

“I think the approach of our School – the technical knowledge and commitment to research which we carry through into our teaching – really helps people who are looking for fresh insights and LPA have been a pleasure to work with because they have been open to new ideas.”

The project has helped LPA incorporate 10GbE connectors into its standard range of communication inter-car Jumpers in order to offer a huge increase in bandwidth, which has been carefully tested using state-of-the-art equipment at the University of Essex purchased as part of the project.

As installed on the First Great Western’s fleets, the Ethernet Backbone will not need to perform at 10GbE at the moment. However, in the future demand from passengers for greater bandwidth is likely to increase dramatically.

Fortunately, First Great Western’s use of 10GbE-Ready jumpers will enable the company to upgrade the bandwidth of their Ethernet backbone by simply replacing their Ethernet switches instead of having to buy and fit new Ethernet Jumpers and fixed Ethernet cabling within the trains.

The Jumpers are part of LPA’s standard range of Railway Inter-car Jumpers and are already recognised as high quality products that offer high reliability and long life.

LPA’s Ethernet Jumpers have been in use on rolling stock around the world since 2007, including on Bombardier’s Victoria Line 2009 Stock for London Underground and on the 2010 Nomad Digital Wi-Fi installation on the East Midlands Trains HST fleet. These Ethernet Jumpers have all performed without fault in the harsh Railway environment.

By fitting future proofed Jumpers, LPA is offering the rail industry a high quality and high performance Ethernet solution that is highly cost-effective.

LPA Managing Director Greg Howell said: “LPA chose to partner with the University of Essex because of the university’s strength in telecommunications and electronic engineering. Through the KTP, LPA has been able to augment its capabilities in electro-mechanical engineering with the University’s expertise in Ethernet systems to enable LPA to launch a revolutionary step change in on-train Ethernet bandwidth.

“This technology offers a cost-effective Ethernet installation on both new and on upgraded existing trains by providing a future-proofed Ethernet backbone whereby the train’s backbone can be upgraded from 100Mbit/s to 1Gbit/s and ultimately to 10Gbit/s solely by replacing the Ethernet switches while none of the fixed cabling or inter-car connections need to be changed.

“At the same time, the KTP Associate has gained industrial experience over the two years of the project and will be offered a full-time job working at LPA after completion of the KTP project.”

...more news releases