India has one of the busiest rail networks in the world with over 18 million passengers traveling its trains daily—just over twice the population of New York City. Operating long-distance, suburban, and local services, Indian Railways carries business travelers, tourists, and other passengers over routes that cover more than 39,500 miles (63,327 km) throughout the country.
Part of the Indian Government under the Ministry of Railways, Indian Railways was seeking a state-of-the-art communications system to keep up with its busy rail infrastructure. That’s when Hughes stepped in with a solution.
To support India’s wide range of rail-based communications requirements, Hughes set up an advanced satellite network and dedicated hub in New Delhi, and 250 broadband satellite terminals. Initially, the satellite network is being used for the railways’ Freight Operations Information System (FOIS), which automates the management of freight infrastructure across the country. The system manages inventory and optimizes the utilization of individual cars, called rakes, at each station, offering substantial savings to the railways.
The next application planned by the railways is to equip accident relief trains (ARTs) with satellite terminals to provide communications from accident sites. Quickly deployable satellite terminals will enable the transmission of live video from an accident site through video uplink and voice connectivity. This capability will enable a real-time situation assessment even at the most remote accident site, as well as better overall accident management and outside communications for stranded passengers.
Currently in deployment is ART videoconferencing capability with the Railway Control Room, a type of accident command center. In the future, the service will also expand to disaster management, providing a live feed to the Railway Control Room and faster transportation of emergency supplies.
Indian Railways is also testing the concept of providing broadband Internet access on trains using the Hughes infrastructure. With trials in the planning stage, this service is targeted at the short haul routes between major cities, which carry a substantial number of business travelers. The railway hub deployed by Hughes would provide Internet access to moving trains, enabling business travelers to stay connected as they travel.
According to K. Krishna, assistant vice president and chief technology officer of Hughes Communications India, “We are very happy to be associated with the Indian Railways, and we are working closely with them to enable more and more applications on the Hughes satellite platform that will benefit both the railway and its travelers.”
Fast-moving trains play an important role in the lives of Indian travelers. And with the Indian Railways communications system powered by Hughes, they will be better able to keep up with today’s fast-moving communications as they travel.