The Victorian government has selected Nokia Siemens to build and operate a $150m wireless voice and data network for communications to urban trains. The system will use GSM-R, a variant of the GSM protocol used for old mobile phones in Australia. The GSM-R network will be separate from the mobile phone network, having its own cell towers and handsets.
The new system will not be compatible with the radio systems used by interstate trains in Victoria, nor with those used by other state government services particularly emergency services used for rescue in railway accidents. It appears likely a separate radio system will also be required for Victorian trains outside the Melbourne urban area.
It does not appear that installing a separate radio network just for trains in Melbourne is a good idea. Similar coverage and reliability could be provided by a combination of publicly provided networks, including the 3G phone networks installed by Australian telcos. As well as not needing the installation of any base stations, this would also allow for operation in rural areas, inter-working with other operators and with emergency services.