Salt Mobile, Switzerland’s third-largest mobile carrier, selected Nokia to upgrade its radio and mobile core network in readiness for 5G. The two companies have been working together on next-generation mobile technology for some time. Salt had operated as Orange until 2015.
Salt previously indicated it’s targeting a 5G launch in the third quarter of 2019. Just over a year ago, it teamed up with Nokia to showcase potential applications for 5G, achieving download speeds of 4.5 Gb/s using spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band. It also tested virtual reality applications and transmitted live video to demonstrate network characteristics such as latency of around 1 millisecond.
Of course, Salt is not alone in having 5G ambitions; rivals Sunrise and Swisscom have also been making progress with their own 5G agendas.
Sunrise, the market’s second-largest operator, recently claimed to have launched the world’s first standardized 5G network at a ski resort (Laax), using a temporary license in the 3.5 GHz band. In 2017, it demonstrated an end-to-end 5G network in laboratory conditions together with Huawei, and last June it claimed to have deployed Switzerland’s first 5G antenna. It is targeting a commercial 5G launch for 2020.
Sunrise has also adopted “5G for People” or “fiber optics over air” as its slogans, and clearly sees fixed-wireless services as the area with the greatest potential for early 5G services. Indeed, CEO Olaf Swantee has indicated that the service provider intends to use 5G in place of ADSL/VDSL-based fixed services, “using just a 5G WiFi hot spot and a 5G mobile network connection.”
Swisscom, meanwhile, is working with Ericsson on the roll out of 5G services. The former incumbent selected the Sweden-based vendor for “Gigabit LTE” and 5G in November 2017. It’s also implementing Ericsson’s radio access solutions, including small cells, and core solutions that include full stack NFVI, virtualized evolved packet core (vEPC), and virtualized IP multimedia subsystem (IMS).
The two companies have already demonstrated applications based on 5G network slicing and narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), and in September 2018 completed a 5G non-standalone (NSA) data call on the 3.5 GHz band in Burgdorf, Switzerland. Swisscom has previously indicated it will launch 5G in 2020, although if it wants to achieve its objective of “being the first mobile operator in Switzerland to offer 5G services,” it will need to get its skates on given Salt’s timeline.
As always, 5G plans and timelines are nothing if they are not underpinned by a robust 5G spectrum allocation strategy. Swiss telecom regulator – ComCom – had previously indicated it would carry out spectrum auctions of frequencies in the 700 MHz, 1.4 GHz, 2.6 GHz, and 3.5 GHz bands this month. But that now appears unlikely since the month ends tomorrow. Reports are now suggesting that the auction will start in the first week of February. Given that the whole process seems shrouded in secrecy it’s not entirely inconceivable that proceedings could already have begun.