Taipei Times reports that the TRA (The Taiwan Railways Administration) has decided to upgrade its nationwide fiber-optic network. TRA made plans for the complete transformation of its network within the next four years. The cost of the upgrade is estimated at around US$ 23 million.
The TRA began installation of fiber optic network some 20 years ago, exactly in 1999. That was the time before the telecom bubble and the nation started to cope with the rising demand for a reliable internal communications system. Fiber optic cable network was the only solution and TRA decided to go with the fiber. TRA has 236 train stations under its control but only 54 of them have fiber optic connectivity.
Copper cables are used for control and communication between railway facilities. Copper cables were good enough for railways until the modernization of railway infrastructure and its control facilities.
Though the quality of transmission via copper cables is often affected by interference from electromagnetic waves, there was no alternative. Interference of transmission signals used to make it difficult for the TRA to increase transmission capacity. In order to transmit error-free data, voice, video and image communication, fiber optic communication technology is the most reliable and updated technology as of today.
As stated before, TRA has been using fiber optic networks for some sections of its facilities since 1999, up-gradation has become inevitable. It is necessary to replace optic fiber cables currently in use, as some are of different varieties or have exceeded their life expectancy. Optical fibers like any other hardware have a lifetime, which typically is over 20 years. ITU-T has specified the life expectancy of optical fiber cables and related accessories above 20 years.
TRA said that its electrical engineering department in 2016 began laying two sets of cross-country cables, with the first set scheduled to be completed by spring next year. The TRA is now ready to work on the second set next year and the two sets would be completed and tested by 2022. The project once completed will connect 208 more stations.
The deployment of new optic fiber cables that will interconnect railway facilities will greatly accelerate the processing speed of the railway company’s new ticketing system, which is to be launched by the end of the month. The ticketing system facilities will get a transmission speed of 100 gigabits per second. The improved communication speeds would also facilitate the dispatch of trains. The TRA currently has only one set of optic fiber cables.
TRA officers told that if the cables in Yilan and Taichung were to break at the same time, information from stations south of Yilan and Taichung would not be transmitted back to the control center. With two sets of the cables, the communications would not be interrupted even if one set is broken. A redundant network is necessary for critical communication systems.
The TRA has plans to renew its contract with Asia-Pacific Telecom, which is leasing the cables. TRA is the second-largest shareholder of Asia-Pacific Telecom, controlling about 9.3 percent of shares in the firm. The telecom’s leasing of the TRA’s optic fiber network has contributed to TRA revenue over the past 18 years, he said, adding that they signed a contract for 25 years. Taipei Times summarizes the report by stating that with 5G network licenses to be released in 2020 in the country, four other telecoms might need to access the TRA’s cross-island optic fiber network