Transferring standards: lessons from GSM-R in the railway sector
In the mid 1990s the European railway community – under the aegis of the Union Internationale des Chemins de fer (UIC) – opted for GSM as the standard to replace existing analogue railway radio systems. The decision was taken on two grounds: GSM was a non-proprietary standard (i.e. open standard) and it fulfilled the needs of railway operators. Other arguments put forward to support the choice was that choosing GSM would have the advantage to remain close to the development of the public market and to benefit from the experience on the applications and products level. This paper looks at the transfer of a telecommunication standard to another industry (railways). In particular it studies whether the adoption of an “extended” version of the GSM standard (GSM-R) turned out to be an efficient choice. Unlike the telecommunication sector, the railway sector does not have a UN forum like the ITU where railway stakeholders can come together to solve technical and standardization issues – that role is carried out in large parts by UIC, ETSI and other standardization bodies and increasingly by the European Railway Agency (ERA). Whereas the telecommunication sector has been undergoing liberalization for more than 20 years the European railway sector is by-and-large only beginning its reform process. The aim of creating a single European railway market has not been facilitated by the existence and persistence of strong technical boundaries at the national level. The transfer and deployment of GSM-R is of strategic importance to the success of another European railway project – European Railway Train Management System (ERTMS) – since the introduction of the new signaling system rests on achieving interoperability in radio-communication.
Record created on 2009-11-27, modified on 2016-08-08