NTCS is a single government-funded network for communications between train control, trains, track workers and wayside equipment for ARTC-controlled and non-ARTC train controlled territories. It includes more than 70 base stations built by Telstra to offer 3G voice and data for ARTC through NextG, which are supplemented by an Iridium-powered satellite solution to provide redundancy in black territory. NTCS also includes the design and supply of 704 In-Train Communications Equipment (ICE) units for locomotives.

ARTC switched off its analogue communications network in December 2014 to operate a single nationwide platform with NTCS replacing disparate and old communication systems. NTCS now offers seamless coverage across the Interstate and Hunter Valley rail networks, with the latest contract with Telstra covering the security of supply, maintenance and enhancement to the network. The value of the contract was not disclosed.

"We have co-created a mobile and cloud-based solution that will help move the national rail freight sector forward," says Mr Martijn Blanken Telstra's chief customer officer, global enterprise and services. "We have also transitioned ARTC into a private cloud environment, built on VCE Vblock, which will significantly reduce the resources it needs to host the applications the NTCS runs on."

ARTC says deployment of the system will allow the freight network to meet its evolving data intensive communications needs and provides a platform for future innovations. These could include the deployment of safe travelling distance technology with proximity alerts, real-time locomotive tracking, sophisticated track and wayside monitoring technology, situational awareness systems, and the Advanced Train Management System (ATMS).

The contract with Telstra marks ARTC's switch from using a private telecommunications infrastructure to a public network.