History of Thales Telecommunications Services

Thales Telecommunications Services was formed in April 2002, by the merger of Thales Translink and Thales Fieldforce, to lead the way in the provision specialist telecoms services to the UK transport market.

The company’s expertise in the design and roll-out of UK telecommunications networks is derived from over 50 years experience.

Firstly, as the former British Railway’s Board, who designed, built and operated its own nation-wide telecoms infrastructure to support its operational and business requirements.

Secondly, as part of Racal Electronics, the company that established Vodafone, Britain’s first commercial cellular service, and who built and managed the Government Data Network and Camelot’s National Lottery communications infrastructure.


British Rail Telecommunications

British Rail (BR) created the largest, private telecoms network in Britain. It consisted of 17,000 route kilometres of fibre optic and copper cable, connecting every major city and town in the country, as well as links to the Continent through the Channel tunnel.

BR also operated its own national trunked radio network providing dedicated train-to-shore mobile communications, and in the early 1980’s BR helped establish Mercury Communications’, now C&WC, core infrastructure by laying a resilient ‘figure-of-eight’ fibre optic network alongside Britain’s railway lines, spanning London, Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.

Realising the enormous commercial potential, BR Telecommunications Limited (BRT) was created in 1992 to exploit its wayleave rights and to take responsibility for the management and maintenance of the industry’s voice, data and radio networks associated with the operational running of the railway and its business needs.


Racal Telecom

In 1995, Racal Electronics purchased BRT to form Racal-BRT, which merged with Racal Network Services (RNS) in 1997 to create Racal Telecom.

RNS designed and ran the Government Data Network and in 1994 it built and operated Camelot’s UK National Lottery communications network infrastructure, connecting all on-line ticket terminals.

To meet the huge growth in Internet and high-bandwidth applications, Racal Telecom undertook a £100m network investment programme, which involved the creation of 12 inter-linking, fibre optic rings across the country. The new network incorporated high-speed ATM technology over a highly resilient SDH backbone. In addition, with the introduction of the latest DWDM multi-channel technology, Racal Telecom built one of the UK’s most advanced, digital fibre optic networks.


Thales Translink & Thales Fieldforce

Thales Translink and Thales Fieldforce (formerly Racal companies) evolved from Racal Telecom in 1999. Thales Translink as an innovative and dynamic telecoms engineering company, focused on the design and development of UK telecoms networks, and the supply of operational and integrated telecoms solutions to the UK transport industry. Thales Fieldforce became a specialist telecoms installation & maintenance company, delivering bespoke solutions for all types of transmission, voice, data, radio and customer information systems - backed by nation-wide 24 x 7 support.

Thales are currently maintaining the National Radio Network (NRN), further extending its life until the next generation technology becomes available. The development of a migration strategy for this is also underway. Providing and maintaining call routing apparatus, radio and VSAT systems, customer information systems, customer premises equipment and local and wide area networks are other areas in which Thales are delivering communications solutions to their customers.

Thales is also involved in designing and maintaining hi tech radio systems for: -
LUL Extension to Heathrow Terminal 5
Heathrow Express Main Line Extension to Terminal 5
Eurotunnel design study – where Thales first demonstrated the viability of deploying RF over Fibre in long railway tunnels.

Thales has also won the CTRL Section 2 Radio Propagation Contract.
This entails the design, supply, commission and carry out the initial maintenance of the coverage infrastructure propagating the following radio systems: -



TETRA (Police – Airwave)

Fire Services (London, Kent & Essex)


Ultimate goal of project

To deliver a future proof maintenance radio system linked to the UK National GSM-R system covering the entire CTRL Route


Relationship to other projects

An extension (compensation event) of existing Radio Propagation Contract for CTRL Section 2

Replacement of original Siemens GSM-R solution deployed on CTRL Section 1

Thales has selected Nortel to provide a digital wireless communications network and support services for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link between London and Folkestone.
The network will be designed to support secure, reliable voice communications to train controllers and drivers using the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, including EUROSTAR.
Thales's telecommunications business was contracted to supply communications services by Rail Link Engineering, the company responsible for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.
Nortel will work alongside Thales to deploy a GSM for Railways (GSM-R) network.
Working alongside Thales, Nortel is providing engineering, installation, integration, project and consultancy services for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link GSM-R network. Channel Tunnel Rail Link drivers will communicate via GSM-R terminals to GSM-R base transceiver stations along the rail link between London and Folkestone, connected through a base station controller located in Ashford, Kent.


Thales are also a leading partner in the special purpose company CityLink Telecommunications Limited and are working in association with London Underground on the 'Connect' project to bring the London underground telecoms network into the 21st century under a £1.2bn, 20 year Public Finance Initiative contract.
This involves designing and installing the new integrated communication system, including the TETRA digital radio (which will replace 19 separate analogue radio systems with a single, integrated TETRA network) and the design, build, test and commission of a new SDH transmission network, using ATM to support voice, data and video services from wherever to wherever it is required.