Swisscom promises 90% 5G population coverage before end of 2019

Swisscom says ready for 5G launch at 100 sites when it gets the nod, will use spectrum sharing to get quickly to national coverage.

Switzerland will use Ericsson’s dynamic spectrum sharing technology to enable it to quickly roll out 5G coverage to 90% of the country before the end of 2019.

The operator announced today that it would turn on commercial service of 5G as soon as it receives concessions approval from the Swiss regulator – likely to be next month. At launch it will have 100 5G sites ready across 50 locations – but will expand that to cover 90% of the population by year end.

Christoph Aeschlimann, Head of IT, Network & Infrastructure, Swisscom said that the carrier is basing its network service on two strands – 5G-fast and 5G-wide. The former is a high speed, high capacity version available in “selective” locations and offering up to 2Gbps speeds. The latter is intended to provide coverage.

“Here we are based on a new functionality we have developed with Ericsson – spectrum sharing – which allows us to have 4G and 5G on the same frequency, so in that way we can cover the whole of Switzerland,” Aeschlimann said. This appears to refer to Ericsson’s recently announced spectrum sharing tech that dynamically introduced 5G carriers into existing spectrum bands.

That means that for the 5G rollout Swisscom will use frequencies that are already used for 2G to 4G, as well as its 3.4-3.8 GHz band. That means that it will “share” its 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.8 GHz bands betwen 2-5G services.

Basing the “5G-wide” version as a shared carrier in spectrum already used by 2-4G of course limits the channel bandwidths that Swisscom could deploy in those areas. In February, the carrier actually acquired 2×15 MHz at 700 MHz as well as 50 MHz at 1400 MHz, to go with 120 Mhz at 3.5 Ghz. You would expect to see those lower bands come on line as coverage options in the future, giving the carrier more throughput potential.

Aeschlimann also said that urban 5G rollout is being greatly hampered by site availability. He said that 90% of urban antenna locations are already fully loaded – making it difficult to upgrade to 5G-fast in the cities. “This means we cannot fully use the potential of this technology in cities,” he said.

This issue is one reason why antenna manufacturers are in a race to market combined passive/active antennas that put all the passive elements into one antenna, leaving more space on the same pole or site for the active antennas that perform the beam forming and M-MIMO functions designed to boost user throughputs.

PRICING AND DEVICES

Additionally, the carrier announced some preliminary pricing and devices. Devices include the Oppo Reno, available at launch, with the LG V50 ThinQ in May, Samsung S10 in July and Huawei Mate X in “Q3”. Prices range from 999CHF (Reno) to 2,449CHF for the foldable Hauwei.

In terms of data packages, the carrier said that customers will be able to access speeds up to 2Gbps for an extra 10CHF, and add up to 3 more connected devices for a further 10CHF on top of their existing  “inOne mobile go” packages, which start at 60CHF. There will be a lower priced 45CHF option in the summer, with what appears to be a very low speed promise (presumably this will be for those only in 5G-fast areas). 

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