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Rail News: Positive Train Control

California High-Speed Rail Authority obtains radio spectrum for PTC


The California High-Speed Rail Authority has received final approval to acquire the radio spectrum it needs to operate positive train control (PTC) and other communication systems for its trains, authority officials announced yesterday.

Conceptual rendering of a California high-speed train
Photo: California High-Speed Rail Authority Flickr account

The agreement with Access 700 LLC, a subsidiary of Access Spectrum LLC, for 44 frequencies covering the lower section of California is critical for the development of PTC and other systems that will monitor train conditions and diagnostics to operate security systems along the future high-speed rail line, authority officials said in a press release.

The authority purchased Access Spectrum's Upper 700 MHz A Block spectrum because the signal is clear, not susceptible to interference and not shared with other users. As only authorized parties will have access to these frequencies, they are ideal for secure communication between trains, officials said.

"By obtaining exclusive rights to this spectrum, we will be able to ensure a secure communications network for future high-speed rail operations across California,” said Frank Vacca, the authority's chief program manager.

The U.S. government is requiring existing railroads to implement PTC by the end of 2020 at the latest. The deadline is an extension of the government's initial deadline, which required railroads to have PTC systems operating by the end of 2015. The first deadline was extended after the railroad industry indicated it couldn't be ready in time. Among railroads' reasons for missing the first deadline was the difficulty in obtaining the radio spectrum necessary to operate PTC systems.

"We recognize how difficult it can be to secure unencumbered, exclusive, licensed spectrum covering geography as diverse as the state of California," said Michael Gottdenker, Access Spectrum's chairman and chief executive officer. "We are confident that the authority will put this vital asset to good use."

In February, the authority's board approved the agreement to purchase the 44 frequencies at $0.70/MHz-pop. The agreement received final approval from the Federal Communications Commission this month. The authority has also entered into an agreement to purchase radio spectrum rights to 43 frequencies in upper California from BPC Spectrum LLC, according to the press release.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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