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Steering a course for perfect Wi-Fi at the Lauberhorn

Until recently, network engineer Hans Wolff had never needed skis for his work. Cables, hotspots, routers and more – for the ski races in Wengen, he had to use a backpack to get all his equipment to the right spots on the mountain. We visited him on site.

Evelyne Owa

January 19, 2023 . 3 minutes read

It’s seven o’clock on Saturday morning, five and a half hours before the start of the Lauberhorn race. There’s an alarm on Hans Wolff’s mobile – there’s been a power outage in the athletes’ waiting area. Hans rushes off. By train and skis, he makes his way to the site of the incident to get the Wi-Fi back on line. Here, at the valley station for the chairlift that takes the athletes up to the start, is also where Hans stores his replacement devices and cables.

«I can really feel the tension on race days,» says Hans. Because it’s down to him to make sure that the athletes can get important information from their coaches and teammates, that the organizing committee can decide whether to let the athletes ski the classic route and that the media can send in their articles. And this is his first time. Because since Sunrise has become the new main sponsor of Swiss-Ski, it’s not just the athletes’ racing suits that are new, but also the network infrastructure at the ski competitions in the Swiss mountains.

Hans Wolff’s materials store is right next to the area where the athletes prepare for the race.

Heavy work on the slope

Hans Wolff has spent more than a year planning, learning, coordinating and monitoring. On top of laying new Sunrise fiber-optic cables, the job involved setting up additional mobile antennae to improve network coverage. There’ll be huge data volumes during the event, since social media is used so heavily. The antennae also need to be linked to the fiber-optic network in order to function.

In addition, lots of temporary fiber-optic connections are required for competitions, such as to the media centers or VIP lounges. In Wengen, the installation of fiber optics meant difficult work on steep terrain. The pipeline for the main cable is located under the old Wengernalp railway track; the access points were covered by soil in some places and had to be cleared first. Everything was finally ready at the beginning of December 2022 – the Sunrise fiber-optic cable from Interlaken down in the valley up to the Lauberhorn finish area was operational.

One of the new mobile antennae stands at the start of the Lauberhorn descent. The increased data volume can only be managed thanks to the extra antennae.

The four new antennae had to be transported to their locations by helicopter. The two antennae at the start and finish lines are fixed, as is the one in the World Cup village, where fans and athletes meet to celebrate and watch the award ceremonies. Hans and his team started building the temporary infrastructure for the Lauberhorn races in early December. Making up for all the hours of overtime were the many pleasant moments, such as a helicopter flight or the ski trips to the Sunrise antennae.

100% operational

We’re back at the athletes’ marquee, and it’s still nearly empty at this early hour. With skilled movements, Hans reactivates the devices and checks his mobile phone to make sure everything’s working again. A special app gives him the information he needs – as well as an overview, it shows him the data for every single device that’s in use at the Lauberhorn, from hotspots to switches, access points and routers.

Hans Wolff can check the network via the app. If a device fails, he’s immediately sent an alarm.

Slowly, the first athletes are starting to arrive, helping themselves to the buffet, watching Sunrise TV or scrolling through their mobiles. The network works flawlessly, with all devices online according to the app. With a sigh of relief from Hans, it’s finally time for him to enjoy his first coffee of the day.

Spectacular viewing terrace

During the downhill event, Hans makes a detour up to the «Loube» at the Hundschopf. The terrace directly overlooking the race piste gives the best views of the spectacular Hundschopf jump, and offers a unique experience for up to 50 Sunrise customers. Here, too, there are TV sets so that guests can follow the athletes’ entire race, as well as a mobile hotspot for cashless payments at the bar – brought here by Hans on skis.

Hans also had to fit the spectacular viewing terrace on the Hundschopf with Wi-Fi.

Hans doesn’t have long to enjoy the impressive view from the «Loube». At the end of the race it’ll be time for him to head back to the materials store and pop his kit into his backpack. With kilos of gear on his back, he skis down to Wengen.

His conclusion: «It couldn’t have gone any better.» 1,100 devices were logged into the Sunrise Wi-Fi network over the Wengen race weekend, and 5,500 gigabytes of data were transferred. What remains is improved Internet and mobile-network coverage. «Locals and holidaymakers will both benefit from these improvements in future.»

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