Sunrise is Switzerland’s #2 wireless carrier. It now claims its 5G network currently covers 80% of the population. Meanwhile, market leader Swisscom says it will have 90% 5G coverage by the end of 2019. #3 national operator Salt is working to launch 5G service sometime later this year.
Note that Switzerland is a very small country. At 41,284 km2, Switzerland is ranked 132nd worldwide. With a population of only 8.5 million people, it is listed at 99th globally.
From the Sunrise website:
Mobile data traffic over the Sunrise network doubles every 12 to 17 months. This means that more and more people and devices are communicating with each other. 4G cannot serve the current demand alone. The new 5G standard (this is an incorrect statement as the reference is to 3GPPP Release 15 which is not a standard nor is it 3GPP’s final submission to ITU-R WP5D for its IMT 2020 RIT/SRIT spec which will largely be based on Release 16) was developed for more efficient and powerful communication.
With 262 cities and towns already covered by Sunrise’s 5G network, Swiss consumers are being offered a connectivity bonanza few others can claim to match. Sunrise started operating its first 5G antenna in Switzerland in the summer of 2018. Less than a year later, the company now has the most expansive 5G network in the country. It is no coincidence that many of the locations equipped with 5G are outside densely populated areas. Sunrise is initially focusing on providing ultra-fast 5G Internet service to customers who lack fiber optic connections at home or at their businesses.
“At the start of April, we launched our 5G network for selected customers,” said Olaf Swantee, CEO of Sunrise.
“This makes us the first 5G provider in Switzerland and Europe. Since then, we have successfully extended our lead. The Sunrise 5G network is the biggest in the country and sets a benchmark in terms of coverage quality.”
“We do not differentiate between ‘fast’ and ‘wide’, between fast and slow 5G. Private and business customers want good and fast 5G coverage. That’s why we will also be offering 5G coverage in all Sunrise Shops by the end of the year. In addition to this, we will be launching a dedicated solution for companies, allowing them to benefit from 5G as soon as possible to aid their digitization.”
It’s worth noting that population coverage is very different from geographical coverage. Switzerland is a highly urbanized country, roughly 73% live in urban environments, easing the demands on network deployment. When one looks at the rural landscapes in Switzerland the challenges start to mount up very quickly.
This is a common trait in the majority of the markets where 5G has gotten off to a flying start. South Korea is another example of a market moving very quickly towards the 5G era, and once again, it is a highly-urbanized country. The UK is a third which has the advantage of a relatively small land mass, combined with a concentrated population.
Although these are factors which will simplify network deployment, that should not detract from the progress being made across the Swiss telco industry. In the absence of coverage obligations, good old competition and ambition is driving the agenda.
Swisscom has rolled out 5G in Zurich, Basel, Davos, St. Moritz, and many other cities. Switzerland’s #1 carrier says “5G will be available across Switzerland by the end of the year.”
“The best network is now even better. 5G is faster, more reliable and more powerful than ever before. It is opening up new opportunities – for our communities, for the economy and for Switzerland as a whole.”
Speed testing authority Ookla maintains a handy global map tracking various categories of 5G deployments–pre-release, limited availability and commercial availability. Even the most topical glance would tell you that Europe clearly has most of the global 5G deployments and, with a bit of zooming, it’s apparent that Switzerland is hands-down ahead of the pack. As one vendor executive put it, Switzerland is “massively in the lead.”
5G spectrum in Switzerland:
Switzerland’s Federal Communications Commission (ComCom) raised $379 million following a Jan. 29 to Feb. 7 auction. Licenses were awarded following a clock auction format, which allowed the bidders to bid on frequency blocks in all the available frequency categories simultaneously. ComCom said that the implementation of spectrum cap allowed the regulator to make sure that all mobile operators were able to acquire a wide range of 5G frequencies at reasonable prices.
Salt secured 20 megahertz in the 700 MHz band, 80 megahertz in the 3.5 GHz band and 10 megahertz in the 1.4 GHz band. Sunrise purchased 10 megahertz in the 700 MHz band, 100 megahertz in the 3.5 GHz range and 15 megahertz in the 1.4 GHz band. The carrier also secured an additional 10 megahertz in the 700 MHz band, which are “supplemental downlink” frequencies that can be used to increase data download capacity in the future. Swisscom secured 30 megahertz in the 700 MHz band, 120 megahertz in the 3.5 GHz band and 50 megahertz in the 1.4 GHz band.
“The frequencies will be assigned for 15 years, giving the operators long-term planning security to develop their networks. The outcome of the auction has been recorded in a decision that is contestable before the Federal Administrative Court,” ComCom said. “The awarding of frequencies is of key importance for the digitalization of Switzerland, and is in line with the Federal Council’s ‘Digital Switzerland’ strategy. In addition to powerful mobile communications, 5G will enable many new uses in future, including the internet of things, medical applications (eHealth), image processing applications (virtual reality, augmented reality) or self-driving vehicles. Switzerland is one of the first countries in Europe to already provide the 5G frequencies to network operators.”