It took only five days for Deutsche Telekom to set up a mobile radio station at the Corona emergency hospital in Neustadt an der Weinstraße. Many colleagues were there with technicians in front and behind the scenes. The fire department's operations management is enthusiastic. Part 5 of our series "We are there for you".
The fire department's turntable ladder stops at a height of 25 meters. In the bucket, high above the ground, Deutsche Telekom technician Stefan Keller pulls his smartphone from his pocket. He starts a videoconference with himself and four colleagues, who are working from their homes throughout Germany. It's an unusual place for a video conference. And it's an unusual time: the Corona crisis. What Stefan Keller is doing in the bucket of the turntable ladder is called an LoS (line-of-sight) test. He's checking whether radio relay links could be established from his position, because here – on the grounds of the Deaconess Motherhouse in the Lachen-Speyerdorf district of Neustadt – is where Deutsche Telekom intends to build a mobile base station. And this base station will be connected to Deutsche Telekom's network via radio relay. This means a direct line of sight to another radio relay station is needed. Radio relay can be used to connect two network points with each other. It acts like a broadband cable through the air.
Keller scans the horizon with his smartphone camera. His colleagues watch attentively on their monitors at home. Then they're all certain: Far in the distance, they see the Telekom high-rise building in downtown Neustadt. That's perfect, because the other end of the radio relay link can be set up on the building's roof.
Fire department delighted with the fast work
An LoS test on a fire truck ladder: the fire department was happy to help Stefan Keller with their revolving ladder on Sunday, because Deutsche Telekom also helps fire departments. What's more: By setting up a mobile base station, Deutsch Telekom is supporting all the emergency service personnel who are currently setting up and equipping a field hospital in Neustadt. Which means they're also helping the up to 200 Coronavirus patients and their loved ones who are expected to fill the hospital in the coming days.
Christian Isler, technical operations manager of the Neustadt Fire Department, gets to the heart of it: "The important thing here is that even if the field hospital fills to capacity, patients can still make phone calls with stable connections and use the internet. We need to guarantee this channel for external contact, because visitors won't be allowed. We also want to make sure that medical and care personnel also have seamless communications."
Deutsche Telekom reacted quickly after the first call, praises Isler: "We sent an inquiry to Deutsche Telekom Saturday afternoon. Not even an hour later, our technical operations managers had a contact person. We were able to clarify further details about the object. By 6 p.m., Deutsche Telekom technician Stefan Keller had already arrived on site and started the project planning."
Full bandwidth over five frequency bands
Things moved at a rapid pace from there, with the desired result: in the possibly record-breaking time of just five days, Deutsche Telekom had set up the mobile base station right next to the Deaconess Motherhouse. Exactly where Stefan Keller spotted the Telekom high-rise from the bucket. The mobile station is equipped with all the latest technologies. It supplies three sectors with GSM, UMTS, and LTE 900, LTE 1800, and LTE 2600. It provides full coverage for telephony and data. The frequency bands enable bandwidths of up to 150 Mbit/s. With SIM cards from Deutsche Telekom, emergency personnel could already set up high-performance hotspots and make phone calls directly with one another during the construction phase, for example. The SIM cards come with unlimited data.
- Saturday afternoon: Deutsche Telekom receives the order. A short time later, Stefan Keller gets into his car in Rottweil and drives 200 kilometers to Neustadt. He speaks with emergency personnel. He drives back to Rottweil that night.
- Sunday morning: Stefan Keller drives back to Neustadt, together with colleague Gustav Zahn. On the way, he makes a brief stop in Stuttgart. He gets a repeater from the warehouse. When he gets to Neustadt, he immediately installs it in the old monastery building. This improves coverage inside the building in just a few hours. Until now, the area was covered with GSM and LTE 900, but the network was weak indoors. He then surveys the entire situation on site and forwards this information to his colleagues. They begin their work immediately.
- Disaster Recovery Management (DRM) prepares one of its equipment containers, which are built specifically for this purpose, for deployment. They configure the radio relay, mount antennas and cables on the container, notify the Federal Network Agency, and request the radio relay frequencies.
- They start on various work in the core network, because the new station has to be integrated as a new cell in Deutsche Telekom's existing network. Communication with neighboring cells must be seamless, to ensure that data connections and calls aren't dropped during a cell change.
- On Tuesday, Peter Hofmann steers the special truck onto the hospital grounds in Neustadt. A short time later, colleagues are already raising the radio masts. The first circuits are then activated in the equipment container.
- In Neustadt, technicians install the remote radio relay station on the high-rise on Tuesday afternoon. Then they activate the radio relay link to the field hospital.
- That same Tuesday morning, Rene Werling, Telekom Shop manager in Neustadt, gets permission from the Group Situation Center to enter his shop, which was closed due to the Corona pandemic. He gets several SIM cards from the storeroom and has them activated immediately by colleagues from the Business Customer unit. He then sets off to the fire department's command center, to deliver the cards personally. The cards come with unlimited data.
- Wednesday: Stefan Keller clarifies the access arrangements with the local command center, because the hospital grounds will become a quarantine area as soon as the first patients arrive.
- By 2:20 p.m. on Thursday, everything is finished. The station is transmitting. The load tests were successful.
It's no wonder that Stefan Keller was ecstatic: "Great teamwork. I'm happy that everything went so well. I'll never forget this job. I'm proud to have been able to make a personal contribution in a crisis like this. And in my next life, maybe I'll become a firefighter. Like a turntable ladder operator. It was pretty cool up there in the bucket."