STOCKHOLM—The new, lightening-fast, 4G mobile network is causing problems for Sweden’s railways, with more countries likely to be affected.
Sweden has pumped some $2 billion into its mammoth Botniabanan project, a ultra-modern, high-speed railway system that runs through the northern part of the country, supplying a long-awaited service to the people in that area.
The track, which has taken 11 years to build, was opened by the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf last year, and is the biggest railroad project in Sweden since 1937.
Although the trains are running at optimum speeds and efficiency, as expected, they seem to have run into an unexpected snag of sorts: the 4G mobile network. That is, vital train signals are getting seriously fouled up.
Here’s how these train signals work, or in this case, how they don’t work:
The track itself is equipped with a brand new signal system called the European Rail Traffic Management System, or ERTMS, which eliminates the need for traditional, visual light signals by sending signal information directly to the train operator.
But since this part of the train’s system is highly sensitive to the mobile 4G network, the emergency brakes, on occasion, suddenly kick in.
And that is exactly what happened during 62 out of 140 train departures in October, according to Swedish magazine, Ny Teknik.
Since Sweden is a world leader in mobile Internet traffic, towers upon towers of new, 4G networks are quickly crisscrossing the country.
However, these powerful 4G signals are disrupting the ERTMS, which can lead to problems when the train passes near base stations.
The Swedish railway industry is now calling for legislation that would regulate the placement of 4G towers and base stations in the country, according to Swedish Radio (SR).
"The frequency range of the railroad is regulated by law, and we can't change frequencies, so we have to be sure that we won't be disrupted," said Sven-Håkan Nilsson, director of ERTMS for the Swedish railroad authorities, according to SR.
The long-range plan for the Swedes is to use the ERTMS in such a way that allows trains to cross several European countries, using different railway standards, without any hiccups.