The Ueschinen valley above Kandersteg is currently in hibernation. However, from the coming alpine season, digitalisation will also make its way onto the alp. That’s because a mobile communications installation is now connecting around 20 alpine farms to 5G.
The Ueschinen valley is located south-west of Kandersteg in the Bernese Oberland. It rises from around 1560 to almost 2310 metres above sea level. During the summer months it is home to around 20 alpine farms in 34 alpine huts – but its also a popular destination for hikers and mountain bikers.
Over several years, the Ueschinen Alpine Association planned the power and water supply, which was realised in 2020. “The water and electricity lines were laid in the same trench,” says Hans Rösti, president of the Ueschinen Alpine Association. “Actually, we wanted to make use of other synergies and also connect a larger area with optical fibre. But Swisscom rejected this for cost reasons.” This is because connecting the alpine huts, which are only inhabited in summer, with FTTH (Fibre to the Home) would not have been cost-effective.
Antenna brings 5G to the valley
Until now, only individual huts were connected to the Swisscom exchange in Kandersteg with kilometre-long copper lines on overhead pylons. Due to the long distances, the only Internet connections possible were those with the lowest data transfer rates. The switch from traditional fixed network telephony to IP (Internet Protocol) telephony was also a challenge in 2019. Due to the topography with many steep slopes, basic service provision could at times not be provided satisfactorily via copper lines, mobile communication or satellite. “We alpine farmers were therefore obviously frustrated,” says Hans Rösti.
After a lengthy evaluation, the idea of a mobile communication antenna came up. A consensus was therefore found with many practical advantages for the alpine farmers. “We used to know exactly where weak reception was available out in the fields. To make a phone call, we had to go there first. But that’s over now, and from the coming season we alpine farmers can also be reached easily everywhere outside our huts,” says Hans Rösti happily. “In the case of an injured animal, for example, I can phone the vet directly out in the field, or even send him a video, depending on the situation. That’s a great relief”.
Rapid implementation and commissioning
No objections were received regarding the submitted building permit, and it was possible to use the standard market priced optical fibre connections provided by Licht- und Wasserwerk AG Kandersteg to connect the mobile communications installation. In autumn 2021 the mobile communications installation was put into operation with 3G, 4G and 5G. It now provides not only the alpine farmers, but the entire valley with the benefits of mobile communication.