A Gigabit Network for Halle
Slow Internet connections are a challenge for lots of towns and cities. Citizens should have equal rights when it comes to participating in the information society and digital opportunities. The northwest German town of Halle, Westphalia, has found the ideal solution.
«In the information society, fast Internet is just as important in terms of infrastructure as drinking water or electricity, cycle paths, roads and rail networks,» says Jochen Strieckmann, CEO of hallewestfalen.net GmbH. And it’s not just hot air, but something that is being put into practice in Halle. Considerable efforts are being made to ensure that undersupplied districts receive full broadband coverage.
And that will be the case in the summer of 2021. Because that is when 800 buildings, 1,132 private homes, 261 companies, and 20 schools will have free access to gigabit-fast fiber optic Internet. A success in which a new development by R&M Germany is playing an important role: the turnkey PoP (Point of Presence) station.
It all started with a unanimous vote by the town council in April 2015. They decided that broadband provision is in fact a basic need and thus a task the town has to actively take in hand.
Their ambitious goal was to establish their very own continuous, maximum-speed fiber-optic network – financed, built, and leased by a dedicated company. This is why, in the fall of 2016, Halle, Westphalia founded the company hallewestfalen.net GmbH as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the town. This independence brings with it a whole range of advantages, but also challenges.
Outer districts at a disadvantage
The project focused on the outer districts of the town and its rural areas, specifically the «white spots» on the broadband map. They were deemed undersupplied because telecommunication companies offer less than 30 Mbit/s download speed here with no investments in FTTH. A communal supplier such as hallewestfalen.net is allowed to supply end-users in such areas whereas competition with private-sector providers is not allowed in well-supplied town centers. These are the competition rules.
Despite these clear prerequisites, there were numerous hurdles to obtaining approval for this key project. Among other things, rights of use for public traffic areas had to be applied for from the state supervisor, the German Federal Network Agency.
Patience was needed until government funding was ready, covering 90 % of the project costs totaling 21 million EUR. The money comes from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (7.4 million EUR) and from the federal broadband funding program (9.3 million EUR).
Making up for lost ground
Despite intensive planning work, the start of construction was delayed by six months. The groundbreaking ceremony took place on October 11, 2019. A 120-kilometer FTTH network was to be rolled out over an area of 52.7 square kilometers within 14 months. But flooding caused a temporary halt to construction in the spring. The COVID-19 pandemic also slowed things up and some changes had to be made to the technical requirements. But things have progressed much more quickly since the summer of 2020.
«We are working from the house connections to the junction points,» says site manager Lothar Jung from BIB TECH GmbH as he details the project. The first step involved the construction company laying the tubes along the streets and to the buildings. In the second step, the fiber optic cables were blown in and the network terminations (APL) installed in the buildings.
From the buildings, the lines run to 44 splitters which are in turn connected with five PoP stations. In the bidding competition, R&M Germany had won the contract for the corresponding network technology. Top marks went to the modular R&Mfoxs cabling system, the equipment for the splitters, and the PoP stations.
Since the PoP cells are completely prefabricated by R&M, the construction companies in the field are spared time-consuming work steps. This helped accelerate the project and make up for the lost time.
All partners – hallewestfalen.net, Deutsche Telekom AG, the consultancy company IEBL, project manager BIB TECH, R&M, and the construction company Lüders and SPIE – got the FTTH project on track. Deutsche Telekom AG feeds the signal from its own network in the five hubs. It has leased the city’s fiber optic network and can offer gigabit-fast Internet performance to end customers. The town of Halle, Westfalen has achieved its goal.
The R&M solution for Halle
- 5 turnkey POP stations with ODF from the R&Mfoxs program
- 44 splitters (NVT) with Single Circuit Management System (SCM)
- 690 Polaris boxes and 23 Venus boxes as service area interface (SAI)
- All-round support: Planner consulting, technical specification, support as well as user training on-site and on-time logistics
The project partners
- Client: hallewestfalen.net GmbH
- Project planning: IEBL Ingenieurbüro Werle Trammer GbR, Wilhelmshaven
- Construction site management: BIB TECH GmbH, Rodenberg
- Construction work:
- Lüders Dienstleistungs GmbH, Soltau
- SPIE SAG GmbH GB City Networks & Grids, Essen branch, service bureau Osnabrück
- Network technology: R&M Deutschland GmbH, Gummersbach
Turnkey point of presence (PoP)
They weigh up to 30 tons, are made of reinforced concrete, can be as big as freight containers, and contain everything operators of an FTTx network need at any nodal point: The point of presence stations developed and prefabricated by R&M Germany.
R&M equips the PoP cells to suit customer specifications and delivers them as turnkey modules to the site on a flat-bed trailer. This saves the construction companies in the field time-consuming work steps. On-site, all that has to be done is pull the cables from the ground into the cabinet and connect them.
The principle is one PoP – one partner. R&M integrates all passive and active technology required: Tubes for the cable inlets and outlets, underground distribution chambers, raceway cable guides, 19” racks, ODF from the R&Mfoxs or PRIME program, electric installation, illumination, UPS, air conditioning, fire protection, burglar alarms, access control. The cells come in three standard sizes from 3×3 to 6×3 meters. The interiors provide space for the installation of 4,608 to 32,256 fibers or ports. The magnitude depends on the particular ODF concept.
R&M plans the PoP stations in a streamlined process. The customer is given a draft in the very first meeting with R&M consultants. This is followed by calculations, layout, parts lists, schedules, logistics, installation. After a total of twelve steps, the hub goes live.