Mobile coverage

Coverage of the mobile networks

Coverage of the LTE networks in Switzerland, December 2019
(per 100 inhabitants)

Coverage of the LTE networks
Sources: Providers

Mobile phone coverage in Switzerland is almost complete.

GSM networks (2G), which were primarily designed for voice telephony and exchanging small amounts of data (SMS texts, e-mail), are more and more being replaced by newer technologies. The vast majority of mobile phone calls are being made over 3G and 4G networks, and 2G now accounts for less than 1% of all traffic.

UMTS/HSPA services (3G), which enable mobile Internet access at a speed of 42 Mbps, are accessible by up to 99% of the Swiss population, depending on the operator. These services are likely to continue to be offered in parallel with the latest generation technologies (4G and 5G) for some years to come.

To cope with the persistent growth in data traffic, the operators are continuing to modernise their mobile networks in Switzerland. Swisscom launched its LTE network at the end of November 2012, with Sunrise and Salt following suit in spring 2013.

LTE technology (Long Term Evolution; 4G) represents a major evolution in development compared to the previous generation of mobile networks, UMTS, HSDPA and HSDPA+ (3G). LTE enables high-speed access to mobile networks. Thanks to the new generation of 4G/LTE networks, the mobile Internet can in theory be used at a maximum speed of up to 150 Mbps. It does, however, need to be said that this theoretical maximum speed is distributed among all users within a network cell.

The operators also continued to equip their networks with LTE Advanced Technology (LTE-A), which enables transmission speeds of up to 300 Mbps, and, with the use of carrier aggregation, up to 450 Mbps, making Internet access even faster and more convenient.

According to the three Swiss providers Salt, Sunrise and Swisscom, LTE (4G) coverage has reached at least 99% of the population at the end of 2019. All operators report also high network coverage of LTE-A technology (4G+): Swisscom reports that 96% now have access to speeds of up to 300 Mbps and 72% have maximum speeds of 500 Mbps.

Following their acquisition of additional frequencies at the beginning of 2019, the providers began to roll out their 5G mobile networks. Swisscom began to market its 5G network on 17 April 2019, with the aim of extending it to 90% of the population by the end of 2019. Sunrise launched its 5G offering on 4 April 2019 and had extended it to more than 384 cities, towns and communities by December 2019, with the aim of covering 80% of the local population.

The new 5G technology is a further development of 4G. Furthermore, 5G today also utilises frequencies that are very similar to those employed in previous generations of mobile communications and is subject to the same radiation limits.

Compared to 4G, 5G offers data transmission speeds that are up to 100 times faster (1 Gbps and above) and significantly shorter latency. It also permits the transfer of much larger amounts of data and allows many more devices to be operated in parallel (up to one million objects per km2). 5G is also more efficient in terms of frequency use and energy consumption.

The new technology is of paramount importance for the future of Switzerland, as it makes many new types of applications possible, such as the networking of large numbers of devices and sensors (Internet of Things, IoT), time-critical, reliable remote control (e.g. telemedicine or Industry 4.0) and self-propelled vehicles, that are capable of processing large amounts of data. In future 5G will also play a key role in managing an economy that conserves resources and energy.

4G/LTE technology continued its rapid global expansion in the year under review. The figures compiled by the GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association) show that there were 4.98 billion LTE/4G customers with contracts around the world in the autumn of 2019, accounting for over 55% of all mobile phone contracts worldwide. According to the GSA, no mobile communications technology has yet established itself as quickly as LTE.

The GSMA (the GSM Association) states that LTE/4G overtook 2G all over the world and become the dominant mobile technology in 2018. More than half of all mobile phone calls and connections (52%) around the world were made using this standard in 2019, a figure that is expected to rise to 56% by 2025. At the same time, 5G is also finding its way into the mainstream, with the launch of the first commercial offerings in numerous countries, Switzerland included. According to GSMA estimates, the number of 5G mobile connections is expected to increase to 1.8 billion units by 2025, which would represent 20% of all mobile connections. This share could grow to a little under 35% in Europe, 48% in North America and to as much as 50% in the developed economies of Asia.

Last modification 03.06.2020

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