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When nature strikes in the Alps





When nature strikes in the Alps

The village of Grimentz is completely cut off from the outside world after a storm: mobile phones, fixed network and Internet are all down. Swisscom reacts quickly and lays 900 metres of temporary cabling, restoring communication to the local people in just a day and a half.

Grimentz, 17.09.2018

It's 10 July 2018. In the canton of Valais, a vicious wind whips through the valleys. A violent thunderstorm is approaching and it’s not long before the rain comes. The level of the La Navisence river keeps rising until it finally bursts its banks. Within just a few minutes, it pulls tonnes of debris with it and devastates the surrounding villages. The storm has barely abated when the local residents start the clean-up operation. In the process, the fibre optic cables that link the village of Grimentz to the outside world are accidentally severed. Suddenly the community has no Internet connection and no access to mobile or fixed networks.



Swisscom on site

The alarm is instantly raised at Swisscom's "Network & Service Control Zurich". To check how things are on the ground, Cablex employee Walter Bartolomucci travels to the affected area. But he doesn't get very far, and is forced to abandon his vehicle three kilometres from the affected area. The weather has battered the road to such an extent that it is no longer passable. There’s nothing else for it: Walter completes the journey on foot. After hiking for an hour, he finally reaches the site of the damage. Both cable ends are buried somewhere beneath the rubble, but he won't be able to track them down on his own. Walter has to hike back to his vehicle to inform his colleagues back in the control centre; he doesn't have any mobile phone reception on site either.

Temporary solution restores communication

It’s a precarious situation: The people of Grimentz have no way to communicate with the outside world in the event of an emergency. To resolve this situation as quickly as possible, David Raemy from Field Service is called in. A satellite telephone is installed with the fire commander as an emergency measure. David also discovers that, although all the fibre optic cables in Grimentz are off-line, the old copper lines are still working. Together with a cable design specialist, a backup network is established, and the analogue fixed network lines are made available again. This provides most of the Grimentz population with a link to the outside world again. Meanwhile, Cablex begins working on a temporary solution. As Walter explains: “Working with Field Service, we were able to find both cable ends under the mud after a painstaking search. We also excavated existing ducts that were still intact and spliced the temporary solution there.” Over 900 metres of temporary cable are laid. In just two days, Swisscom is able to completely reconnect the people of Grimentz to the outside world. As soon as the damage to the roads and surrounding area is repaired, the temporary solution can be dismantled – work that is expected to take around one to two years.