Set up in 2000, RailTel Corporation, the telecom arm of Indian Railways (IR), manages all its telecom assets including optical fibre. The company was established with the mandate to facilitate IR in expeditiously modernising train operation and safety systems by providing state-of-the-art communication network infrastructure; develop, operate and maintain a nationwide broadband telecom and multimedia network to supplement the telecom infrastructure across the country especially in rural, remote and backward areas; and generate revenue through commercial exploitation of its surplus capacity.

RailTel has exclusive right of way (RoW) along the railway routes and land. It pays 7 per cent revenue share to IR in lieu of the RoW.

Current network infrastructure

RailTel currently has an optical fibre cable (OFC) network spanning 61,000 route km along the IR network. OFC connectivity is present at over 6,000 railway stations. It is a three-layer network comprising the core, distribution and edge. RailTel also has a high-capacity backbone network spanning 45,000 km across 100 cities. Its data network has 80 core and 400 edge locations. It has also established two Tier 3 certified data centres at Hyderabad and Gurugram, and four network operations centres in Mu­mbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Secundera­bad.

Key partner in the digital transformation

RailTel has been a key partner in enabling IR’s digital transformation. It provides the following services to Indian Railways:

  • Content on demand: It provides content-on-demand services including e-commerce services such as bookings for cabs, buses and trains, and entertainme­nt content to rail users. It will cover ar­ound 8,731 trains and all Wi-Fi stations through these services. The services are being provided under a 50:50 revenue sharing arrangement between RailTel and IR.
  • Modern train control system: Railtel is implementing a modern train control system based on the European train control system, which is now based on the train collision avoidance system. The long term evolution-based mobile train radio communication system will help enhance the capacity and safety of IR.
  • e-Office: This includes a cloud-enabled application hosted at the RailTel data ce­ntre. It has around 134,000 users across IR in 216 establishments. Furth­er, over 1,500,000 e-files and 8,600,000 e-recei­pts have been created.
  • Video surveillance system (VSS): An MoU for establishing an internet protocol (IP)-based VSS at 6,049 stations was signed in June 2020. RailTel has comple­ted the work at 281 major stations.
  • Railway display network (RDN): RailTel provides relevant railway information to rail users through large format displays. Display screens have been established at 2,185 stations. There is a 65:35 revenue sharing arrangement bet­ween IR and RailTel for this.

Station Wi-Fi project

RailTel has signed an agreement with Google for technology and radio access networks under the station Wi-Fi project. RailTel will build the OFC access network at the stations and provide internet service provider services. Work at 6,028 stations has been completed.

Progress under PM-WANI

RailTel’s Wi-Fi network is spread across more than 6,048 railway stations and is growing. It is playing the role of an anchor in the Prime Minister Wi-Fi Access Net­work Interface (PM-WANI) ecosystem through its engagement with regulatory bodies and industry players. It will leverage its business relationship with last-mile access network providers (ANPs) as ANPs will become public data offices to take Wi-Fi to rural areas. RailTel will also launch its own mobile app for end-to-end services. It is already registered as a public data office ag­gregator (PDOA) and has obtained a pro­visional PDOA certificate from the Centre for Development of Telematics. It has also completed the payment channel in­te­gration with Billdesk and Paytm.

Future plans

The creation of a state-of-the-art OFC network is almost complete. OFC in the railways is currently being used for train control communication, administrative communication, Wi-Fi applications, video surveillance, Railnet, Railcloud, e-office, hospital management, information systems and other non-critical applications.

Going forward, OFC use will be augmented for critical and advanced systems such as track monitoring, rolling stock predictive maintenance, modern signalling systems, train collision avoidance systems, tra­in coach safety, women safety and coach vi­deo surveillance, artificial intelligence and machine learning applications such as train coach watering alerts, electrical maintenan­ce, air conditioning monitoring, distributed acoustic sensing and asset management. s

Based on a presentation by Suresh Kumar, Executive Director, Projects, Operations and Maintenance, RailTel