DC About To Become More Awesome With Our High Speed Passenger Rail

by Elias Shams
Brace yourself for one of these babies or something close to it in our area. Imagine riding with it from DC to NY or San Francisco:

High-speed passenger rail projects in and around the DC area will receive nearly $200 million dollars in new grants as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Department of Transportation announced on Thursday. Projects will include the construction of a third track between Arkendale and Powell’s Creek in Virginia, as well as engineering and environmental work for a new tunnel in Baltimore and a new station at BWI Airport. The grants are part of $8 billion in federal stimulus spending aimed at improving high-speed rail service throughout the nation.

High-speed passenger trains have been around for past twenty five years which I think it started in Japan. Given, how large our nation is, weren’t we supposed to have something like this first? Not sure why it didn’t happen before. The only thing I can think of, we finally have a President who had traveled abroad prior his presidency and think of his people and country first than his party. Listen to his rational for the project:

Referring to my previous article about WiMAX and Clearwire, I wonder if this project will be a good opportunity for Clearwire to showcase their WiMAX initiatives. Or better say a major development for WiMAX? Imagine riding on this kind of train and accessing the Internet using your laptop via WiMAX. With a couple of remote stations (node) installed on the train, that should provide a reliable local connection. Or maybe using WiMAX as the backhaul and Wi-Fi for access.

Anyway, interesting technological initiatives are happening around DC. I make sure to stay on top of them. It looks like I have to cut down on my parties and club hopping at nights 😦

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About Elias Shams
I have been a serial entrepreneur in telecom and social media space for past 12 years or so. I hold a M.S. degree in Telecommunication Engineering from the George Washington University and a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland. I’ve lived and worked in many countries and cities including London England, Tehran Iran, Bonn Germany, Paris France, Alicante Spain, Delhi India, and my favorite of all Washington, DC of great US of A. Two of the greatest Washington, DC based companies I worked for and very proud of are Yurie Systems which was sold to Lucent in 1998 for $1.23 B and telezoo.com that I founded in 1999. I am currently the founder and awesomizer @ awesomize.me

15 Responses to DC About To Become More Awesome With Our High Speed Passenger Rail

  1. Ben Hoffman says:

    Cool! We need that here in Colorado, too.

    • Elias Shams says:

      Considering how large our country is, just wondering why no other president initiated this? After all, such technology has been around since early 80’s I think in japan. Do you know?

  2. Moe says:

    There’s a very big project proposed for FL from Tampa to Orlando. I think a much better use for the money would be light rail to airports in our cities, but maybe the train to Disney World will get people thinking about rail. Lord knows we need a lot of it.

    • Elias Shams says:

      Moe, The one in FL is also part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Correct?

      • Moe says:

        It is.

        Interestingly, five years ago the voters in Florida mandated by referendum that such a rail line be built. But Gov Jeb Bush (familiar?) agressively delayed it long enough to allow opponents to overturn the vote.

        Now the Feds will pay for it. Five years later.

  3. Alex Alavi says:

    Elias, Good question! I am certain this project would be a great opportunity for Clearwire, but Verizon could also be in a position to compete for this project depending on when they are able to build and complete the high speed railway.

    Regarding the technical feasibility, there are currently voice and Internet services operating on the sky (in the airplanes). Many years ago, I think Motorola and perhaps other vendors tested CDMA handoff over airplane at much higher speed than average automobile. Assuming average cell radius of about 2 miles and train traveling at about 500km or 312.5 miles per hour, the network may have to handoff a voice or data session every 20 sec. or so. This is quite feasible but challenging under high traffic. Hope this helps and my rationale is near accurate.


  4. John Aiken says:

    The WiMAX specifications formally call out support for a minimum subscriber velocity of 120 miles per hour, but this is an artificially low limit, with accommodation of higher speeds such as found in fast trains very feasible. With normal tower spacing, handoff intervals should not be a problem in high speed rail applications.

    Cellular service from airplanes is currently prohibited by the FCC because airborne mobiles are visible to too many towers, complicating network selection and handoff, since original cellular architectures envisioned a mobile as being in range of relatively few towers. Initiatives are however underway to set up cellular picocells in airplanes with dedicated satellite backhauls. WiFi hotspots were used on several airlines but revenue did not justify the expense and these were mostly discontinued around 2007, but a revival in this space is underway.

    WiMAX operator support for high speed rail passengers has always been high, with deployments existing or underway in the US, Korea, Japan, Russia and other markets with significant commuter and interurban rail. These do not need picocell and backhaul but may operate over macrocell infrastructures.

    WiFi using various backhaul in trains is not uncommon. The WiMAX network community is working on flexible approaches including WiFi-WiMAX interworking.

    Geostabiliized satellite backhauls could support WiMAX Femto or Picocells in trains or airplanes.

  5. Perlat Meta says:

    Yes the time for WiMAX is coming , if the devolop…… SW for the radio-link resurce,and evite the much cost of mantenace of networks.Bud is not only the WiMAX in competitons ,is the GSM LTE in the competitions and haven much time and money in this devolopmen technology invested.Let us see in begin 2012…

  6. Robert Syputa says:

    WiMAX supports three types of roaming in the 802.16e standard (and .16m).

    Having the capability within the standard is not enough: Roaming must be developed into products and deployed networks.

  7. Steve Webster says:

    It would be useful to know more about how the high-speed (TGV/ICE) trains in Europe manage to provide 2G & 3G coverage to their customers. The last time that I rode the TGV in France, using mobiles was banned in most of the train cars in order to not disturb customers. There is still a demand for data, and some voice service on high speed trains. Providing that service can be challenging.

    There are two principal issues with service to high-speed devices from a fixed network: handover management and Doppler shift. Most 2G/3G/4G wireless networks have cell overlap ranges that are typically a fraction of a mile. At 200 MPH, the handover decision needs to be sped up so that the new cell serves before the current cell fades below threshold. At high speeds, there is a doppler shift effect that has to be compensated for to prevent ICI (inter-carrier interference) in OFDMA networks (such as LTE or WiMAX). ICI effects can be equalized, but the multipath effects are also distorted by speed, which makes ISI (inter-symbol interference) management difficult, even with a sufficiently long Cyclic Prefix.

    While an antenna mounted on the train that connects to a terrestrial 3G or 4G network connected to a WiFi access point, repeater or inexpensive 3G base station can provide coverage inside the train, the aforementioned technical issues still need to be overcome for this solution to work.

  8. Jim Baker says:

    Putting aside the complexities of cellular hand-off at high speeds, and focusing more on the question about whether this is an opportunity for Clearwire, one has bear in mind that Clearwire is focusing on urban environments for its Clear 4G service. Assuming that regular Wi-Fi is used on board for passenger access and then cellular backhaul to a train, they’d need base stations at regular intervals along the track. I doubt Clearwire is interested in this market outside the urban core. It’s more likely that a 3G provider like Verizon, Sprint or AT&T would be a better choice as they have greater density of base stations in suburban and rural areas.

    Ultimately it’s likely that on long inter-city routes, the successful solution will use a combination of licensed band 3G/4G WANs, track-side networks using 5GHZ 802.11a or WiMAX, and possibly satellite in more remote areas. The solution would seamlessly switch between WAN types and aggregate bandwidth where multiple providers are available. And then there are the tunnels to deal with. It’s not an insignificant challenge.

    To put this in perspective on the UK’s new Southeastern domestic high-speed train service, which opened on December 13th 2009, it’s hard enough getting a mobile phone signal let alone data coverage for a Wi-Fi service. Basic cellular infrastructure to provide simple voice services would be a good first step.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southeastern(train_operating_company )

  9. Elias Shams says:

    Jim, Agreed. The reason I brought up Clearwire, I thought their WiMAX infrastructure is supposed to be a cheaper backbone alternative network than the existing networks provided by other 3G service providers

  10. John D says:

    I think most WiMAX devices currently on the market are qualified to a doppler speed of 120 Km/hr. It is probably the case that a significantly larger shift is achieveable, however.
    But the high speed rail application is challenging. WiMax coverage is by no means close to ubiquitous yet, and systems intended for rail service are likely to have a thin line of base stations along the right of way. This configuration allows the use of directional antennas, for longer range and therefore fewer handovers, but maximizes the doppler effect. A base station attempting to receive signals from multiple trains going in different directions has a challenging job to do. WiMAX manufacturers will have a different budget for the phase shift associated with the doppler effect.

  11. LTE is not out yet but any high speed transit, ground to air, harbor, emergency responder or similar government involved effort is measured in years, not months. Before any wireless system gets deployed the HS transit must first be allocated the funding, designed and built. For all practical purposes, LTE is timely.

    What matters more than the wireless RAN technology is the wireless user interface technology. What is the user going to have in their possession that they can connect with will have a large influence on the choice of network(s).

  12. Roxana says:

    Your way of telling all in this paragraph is really pleasant,
    every one be able to without difficulty be aware of it, Thanks a lot.

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