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Case Study 

MCG-101 for Positive Train Control regulations

The Satcom M2M industry offers many reliable solutions that can help improve safety on railroads to all trains, anywhere tracks run. In addition, Satcom solutions offer delivery of additional information about locomotives including diagnostics, engine information, brake times, signaling as well as many other onboard systems.

About the MCG-101

The MCG-101 was designed to provide the most powerful and versatile Iridium communications system to remote locations, aircraft, maritime or mobile offices. The system provides an intelligent solution using the Iridium satellite network to operate as a telephone, internet gateway, intelligent GPS device, send/receive SMS, and attach to other devices through RS232 and ethernet to provide access to remote hosts via internet.

The Customer Situation

With the new mandate that all rail operations meet federal guidelines for secondary communication and positive train control, rail companies are moving quickly to find solutions that will meet government requirements while allowing for greater understanding of their operations. This requires rail operators to work side by side with experienced partners familiar with modern communication networks and IOT solutions to deliver hardware that will meet government regulations. With a little over a year before the government mandate becomes a requirement the rail companies need to work fast to find a solution.

The Challenge

There are handful of solutions providers who specialize in rail and provide positive train control using radio technology which has been the mainstay of rail communication for over a century. Most of these providers are software developers or technology companies specializing in logistics but not telecommunication networks or hardware. This means these companies by themselves fall short of the solutions mandated by the government. To meet all requirements rail operators need communication hardware and IOT devices capable of operating even when radio is not available. This hardware should also work in tandem with positive rail control whenever possible. To achieve these goals the rail operators would need help from professionals who had proven experience in providing hardware across a host of industries and networks.

The Solution

Global Satellite Engineering at its’ core is an engineering firm that consistently looks at hardware already in the field or developing their own hardware whenever necessary to achieve customer needs. Our rail clients immediately need hardware that will operate well as a backup means of communication on a network that mirrored the size and availability of radio networks already in place. The device would also have to have additional capabilities to work with positive train control systems and allow for telemetry data to be gathered and transmitted at the client's request.

The best hardware for this application is the MCG-101 developed by GSE. The MCG-101 working on the Iridium satellite constellation met the secondary communication requirement of the rail operations by providing a solution that works just like radio with the exception that the communication service offered by Iridium Satellite Network is available anywhere in the world. The MCG-101 unit comes standard with a traditional handset for voice communication but also allows users to connect via digital interface to access the voice communication service or interact with the unit directly utilizing Wi-Fi. The MCG-101 also employs ASIC echo cancellation for improved audio call quality. This offers rail operators improved clarity over the older radio handsets the rail company may be accustomed to using.

The second requirement of this mandate was the ability to provide positive train control. While the MCG-101 does not specifically allow for this to occur the linux capabilities and ability to deliver data over a host of connection ports mean the MCG-101 can work with technologies developed by solutions providers who do provide positive train control. They can even further their own operations by tapping into the intelligence of this device accessing tracking information and through sensors and additional peripherals like CANBUS technology offering insight into maintenance and day to day operations of a locomotive for the rail company.

The Result

Working with rail companies in the United States and their positive train control service providers, GSE is able to offer hardware that will help the rail companies meet the new government mandate requirement. By the using the MCG-101, the rail operators can now speak with dispatch across the Iridium Satellite network on clearer connections that operate further than traditional radio and continue to work even when emergencies and natural disasters affect the ability of radio to operate normally.

The service providers are also able to tap into the data services provisioned through the MCG-101 units. This allows the rail operators to utilize internet-over-satellite and stay on top of new information transmitted from other offices or dispatch while also transmitting important telematics data from the locomotives themselves. This results directly in lowering operational cost and limiting potential safety issues that might arise from faults aboard locomotives. Finally, the tracking ability of the MCG-101 units allow both the service providers of positive train control and dispatch to understand where their locomotives are and even understand potential delivery and departure times.

What began as a mandate to improve communications and implement further safety procedures allows rail operators to attain a complete communications and telemetry solution that works hand in hand with technology from multiple sources. The MCG-101 solution now provides the means for the rail operators to communicate and work closer in way that is more meaningful for all involved.

About the Author
Scott Walters
Global Account Manager

Scott Walters is a business professional with over 24 years of technology based experience and has demonstrated success as a manager and team leader with an emphasis on account management, logistics, team building and multitasking effectively within a high-stress, goal oriented environment.

Contact Scott Walters at

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