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10 July 2018

Switzerland: Now We Are Finally Moving Forward with 5G

This article received 680 on-line comments before the function was closed. Many warn against the dangers of 5G technology.

Now we are finally moving forward with 5G
by R. Knecht, 20min.ch, 6 July 2018 - translation

Today, the Confederation is opening the race for the coveted 5G frequencies. The Swiss telecom companies are ready to fight.

Download a 2 gigabyte file over the mobile data network
in less than a second.  The mobile standard 5G should
make this possible.
Salt, Sunrise and Swisscom have been waiting eagerly for this day: Today, the Federal Communications Commission (Comcom) will give information about the call for tenders for the 5G radio frequencies.

What sounds technical has enormous significance for Swiss network operators: in order to send 5G signals via these radio frequencies, they need a federal license. Only if they get this, are they allowed to use the new technology commercially.

The companies will now compete for the limited number of frequency bands. The more you can get, the more stable your network will be, especially with regard to 5G.

"It could go fast with 5G"

The invitation to tender from the Federal Government is an important step towards 5G in Switzerland. "As soon as the frequencies have been awarded, 5G could be going relatively fast," says Ralf Beyeler, telecoms expert at the Moneyland.ch comparison service, on 20 minutes. The telecom providers knew that the technology could be used to make a lot of money.

The companies are therefore willing to pay a lot for the concessions: For the 4G frequencies, the three providers together paid almost one billion Swiss francs. By comparison, for the 3G frequencies, the bidders paid a total of only 205 million francs. How much Salt, Sunrise and Swisscom are now willing to pay for the 5G frequencies, the companies do not reveal for tactical reasons.

Salt and Sunrise shoot against Swisscom

For the providers, a lot is at stake; according to the fighting they will fight. Salt and Sunrise are targeting Swisscom. They are already accusing Comcom of granting the telecoms giant an unfair advantage in the awarding process. Salt and Sunrise demand that the financially strong Swisscom should not buy as many frequencies as it could.

Sunrise mentions a case from the past: In 2012, Swisscom had bought frequencies that had not been used commercially until today. So the competitor would have exploited defects in the auction process to hoard the frequencies.

Procedure threatened

Salt and Sunrise agree on this: They want to fight against favoring Swisscom, which is mainly state-controlled. A Salt spokesman says the company is considering recourse in case Comcom does not consider their concerns. Sunrise also warns of a "lengthy complaint procedure". Telecoms expert Beyeler finds: "It would be good for Switzerland if Swisscom could not bid on so many frequency bands."

Swisscom, on the other hand, believes that it wants to bid for a particularly large number of frequencies, as its customer base is particularly large. For each customer, the company has significantly fewer frequency bands than its competitors.

Auction in autumn

The auction itself should take place according to Beyeler only in the fall. 

However, telecom companies already have concrete ideas for new lucrative businesses. For Sunrise, 5G is primarily a way to replace the fixed line, according to Beyeler. Currently, the provider is dependent on its fixed network offer on the networks of the competitor Swisscom and the power companies. "I would imagine that Sunrise will soon launch a small 5G receiver, then connect it to the customer's router or telephone," says the expert.

"Swisscom is terrified"

The largest Swiss network operator will not like it. "Swisscom is terrified of Sunrise," says Beyeler. The company would earn nothing more if Sunrise no longer needed to use the Swisscom network for some fixed-line customers. At the same time, it is not worthwhile for Swisscom to launch a similar product because it already has its own infrastructure for the fixed network.

According to Beyeler, Swisscom will initially concentrate on the industrial application of 5G. That means, it will build local 5G networks for companies that require high-speed networks without delay in their production facilities.

Original article in German:

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