A year after the flood disaster in the Ahr valley, the mobile phone networks are stable again everywhere in the valley – and according to operators, are now better prepared for emergencies than before. After the night of the storm surge from July 14th to 15th, the networks failed in large parts of the region, and many people could no longer be reached for days. On the night of the disaster, underground cables for the power supply were in many cases torn away by the water masses. Parts of telecommunications via the fixed network were also affected.
During the reconstruction, decisions were made early on “in order to build future-proof and resilient telecommunications networks that were to be set up,” the Ministry of Digitization in Mainz explained. “The telecommunications companies have shown that they have ramped up the mobile network again in a relatively short time after the flood in the Ahr valley,” said department head Alexander Schweitzer (SPD). “For the resilience of the infrastructure in Germany, further concrete steps must now follow.”
Mobile satellite and cell phone systems
In the event of destruction and a widespread failure of the networks, the head of technology at Vodafone Germany, Tanja Richter, mentions an SOS network package from the company. This includes, for example, a mobile satellite solution. According to Vodafone, the number of mobile base stations that can be used to replace a network that no longer exists or to expand network capacity has been massively increased. In addition, numerous additional emergency power generators were purchased. Vodafone technicians were still on duty on the night of the flood to repair the destroyed infrastructure as quickly as possible, the company said.
Deutsche Telekom has adjusted previous locations to the updated flood estimates during reconstruction work in the flooded areas. “For example, many switching centers will be rebuilt on hillsides in the future and not rebuilt at the old locations,” explained a spokesman. In the event of a catastrophe, Telekom relies on transportable switching centers and mobile cellphone stations. The supplementary use of satellite solutions is also being tested. To secure the power supply, Telekom’s mobile radio stations have a battery buffer for a period of up to several hours. Mobile power supply units are also available for special cases.
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