Gotthard Base Tunnel Case Study

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Commscope Collaborated with Nokia in Providing Reliable 4G Coverage for Railway Passengers Speeding through the Gotthard Base Tunnel under the Swiss Alps

Completed in the summer of 2016, the Gotthard Base Tunnel is the longest railway tunnel in the world, running 2.3 kilometres below the Swiss Alps at 250 km/h for a length of 57 kilometres. Nokia looked to CommScope to develop a DAS solution that would allow reliable wireless communication for passengers and crew alike —so that connecting in the tunnel was as effortless and reliable as doing it at the station.

CommScope answered the Gotthard Base Tunnel challenge with a highly-customizable, multiband, multioperator, fiber-optic DAS platform that is fast and reliable enough to handle the lightning-fast handoffs required by bullet trains. Parallel networks for public and railway communications extend throughout the tunnel. The solution ensures that connections made throughout the tunnel are as fast and reliable as they are in the centre of Zurich or Milan.

In-Tunnel DAS Provider

As the in-tunnel DAS provider, CommScope engineers were asked to design, commission and provide system integration support for the DAS solution. The technical requirements were significant. Trains must be able to connect reliably and seamlessly to the railway’s GSM-Railway (GSM-R) network—the system that allows train operators, dispatchers and in-train personnel to communicate. The DAS must also support traffic from public GSM-900MHz and GSM-1800MHz networks, one UMTS 2100MHz network and the PMR-400MHz public safety network. On top of that, the system also supports the LTE- 1800MHz public traffic. The objective was to ensure accurate, precise voice and data signal handoffs while trains speed through the tunnel at up to 250 kilometers per hour.

The sheer length of the Gotthard Base Tunnel was also a challenge, since it actually consists of two main parallel bores running in opposite directions—each 57 kilometers in length. An additional 43 kilometers of access and service tunnels require reliable signal strength for critical maintenance and emergency response communication. In total, the project required 153 kilometers of spotless wireless coverage.

ION®-M — the High-Speed Railway Coverage Solution

ION®-M is the heart of CommScope’s DAS solution. It is a highly customizable, advanced multi-band, multi-operator, fiber-based DAS that uses master control units connected to multiple remote repeaters via fiber optic cables. It features:

  • A radio-over-fiber (RoF) platform that adapts to all existing optical distribution scenarios, while providing exceptional coverage and low interference. This platform ensures that the solution can be upgraded and extended as requirements change.
  • Built-in redundancy capabilities that are easily and remotely configured to maintain 99.999% system reliability that is critical to GSM-R and PMR network performance. The system also has on-board AGC (automatic gain control) that enables it to dynamically compensate for optical link loss. This will ensure constant gain regardless of how the link budget changes.
  • Remote monitoring and configuration via A.I.M.O.S.TM (Andrew® integrated management and operation system), a proprietary solution that simplifies everything from system supervision and performance oversight to detailed, real-time fault tracking.

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