Switzerland is the 5G pioneer in Central Europe. Swisscom and Sunrise advertise with an availability of 90 percent. But the reality looks different and trickier, as our measurements show. We think: Sunrise is currently ahead of the game with 5G – but that can change quickly, because both network operators are in the middle of expansion.
All over the world the networks are using the latest 5G mobile technology retrofitted. Switzerland was involved in this process early on, one of the first countries in Europe. The auction for the 5G frequencies went noiselessly at the beginning of last year, and all three network operators secured enough bandwidth in the 3.5 GHz spectrum to offer 5G with the promised gigabit speeds.
When expanding the networks, Swisscom, Sunrise and Salt use very different strategies. Salt has only recently started building 5G and plans to offer its customers the right tariffs only later this year. Swisscom and Sunrise have been in business since last year, but are expanding the 5G locations differently. This applies to the regions that receive 5G first, as well as to the technology. With Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, Swisscom has implemented an innovation that also has some side effects.
5G through the front door: Sunrise focuses on 3.5 GHz
Sunrise has started its 5G expansion in the province. Initially, the focus was on small rural towns that had previously had problems with Internet access. Only gradually is Sunrise turning to the big cities. Swisscom has primarily concentrated on the cities and uses them as the starting point for its nationwide 5G network. There are already plenty of areas in which both network operators appear as competitors, but often only one is present on site.
To get the promised fast data rate with 5G, The network operators must use the auctioned frequency blocks in the 3.5 GHz range. Swisscom and Sunrise each have a spectrum of 100 MHz available. This gives them enough bandwidth to enable their customers to download up to 1 Gbit / s and more. The problem is that these frequencies do not have a long range. In order to serve as many customers as possible with 5G as quickly as possible, both network operators also use other frequencies.
Sunrise is using the previously unused 700 – Mhz range, which enables long ranges . There Sunrise belongs 10 – MHz block, i.e. a fraction of what the network operator owns at 3.5 GHz. This means that only a pace can be achieved that is hardly faster than LTE. Our measurement data show that Sunrise with 700 MHz is just beginning, because customers usually receive their 5G over 3.5 GHz.
5G through the back door: Swisscom with Dynamic Spectrum Sharing
Swisscom, on the other hand, wants to make 5G available nationwide as quickly as possible. To do this, it switches to other frequencies on a large scale. In the first step she operates in the 2nd 100 – MHz band the so-called Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) between LTE and 5G. This means that Swisscom shares a 20 MHz block in this frequency range flexible between 5G and LTE as soon as needed consists. “Every millisecond, the distribution of the LTE and 5G capacity required at the same time is adjusted,” Swisscom explained. Thanks to this technology, the market leader enormously increases the availability of the new radio technology.
But with DSS, the wow feeling is not that easy, because the bandwidth is only sufficient for speeds that in principle also reach LTE. Swisscom DSS will later use other frequency bands such as 1. 800 Unlock MHz. If Swisscom combines several DSS frequency bands by channel bundling, very high speeds will still be possible in the future. But that also means that LTE and 5G customers have to share these resources.
DSS has another foot: Only brand new 5G smartphones support this technology. Current chips such as Qualcomm's Snapdragon are required with the X 55 – Modem or the Snapdragon 765 with integrated 5G modem. In addition, Swisscom customers can also get 5G models of the Samsung Galaxy S 20 – Family grasp – thanks to one Special software updates from Samsung for Swisscom meanwhile support these smartphones 4G / 5G-DSS. Currently (beginning of April 2020) they are even the only DSS-compatible smartphones in the Swisscom online shop. So anyone who bought a 5G cell phone in the last year will not send or receive anything via DSS.
5G checked in the area
The subject of 5G in Switzerland is complex. To measure availability, the NET CHECK testers took an R & S®TSME6 scanner from Rohde & Schwarz MNT with them when driving. We could on a route of 4. 130 Let the scanner measure kilometers. The kilometers traveled are divided almost equally: one half in the cities and the other on motorways and country roads.
If you take 5G reception via DSS into account, Swisscom achieves one Availability of 75, 9 percent in cities and 65, 3 percent on motorways and country roads. That sounds very good at first, but in the important 3.5 GHz band, Swisscom only covers 25, 5 percent in cities and lean 12, 3 percent in the country. And these numbers are important to us, because only in this frequency range should 5G leave the impression that the new radio technology is clearly superior to the old one.
For Sunrise, we provide better availability of 5G over 3.5 GHz. In the cities, the network covers 33, 5 percent and on highways plus country roads it reaches 23, 8 percent. If you add 5G via 700 MHz reaches Sunrise 40, 4 percent in cities and 26, 6 percent in the country.
Speed limits for the 5G network
In addition to the scanner data by car, another team was on the road with a Freerider III from Rohde & Schwarz MNT integrated in the backpack and has four cities in Zurich and Basel , Bern and Geneva made hundreds of speed measurements – an extensive sample. The system was also used on the train journey between the cities. Measurements were taken on two Samsung Galaxy S smartphones 10 5G (SM-G 977 B). The smartphone is known for not having the fastest 5G performance, but it is available from both network operators and works smoothly with the measurement system. DSS does not master it.
If you look at all data transfers that were fully or at least partially via 5G, we measured the better values for Sunrise. This affects not only the average, but also the threshold to the top and bottom ten percent. On average Sunrise comes up 430 Mbps, in the Swisscom network it is at 299 Mbit / s. Both are speeds that are far beyond what mobile surfers need in everyday life.
Taking into account the values for all downloads that we do with the Galaxy S 10 5G, Sunrise is also ahead. These numbers reflect the user experience, because the smartphones were not always connected to the 5G network, but were also occasionally connected via LTE. Sunrise achieves a download cut of 254 MBit / s, while the Swisscom average at 157 MBit / s lies. When uploading, the networks do not reach spectacular speeds. The average across all 5G samples for Sunrise is 49, 4 Mbit / s. It is better in the Swisscom network with 63, 1 MBit / s.
A direct comparison of the 5G -Speeds is difficult because the networks only appear as competitors in relatively few locations and the local conditions have a major impact on the data rate that network participants receive. For an extensive, direct comparison, we have to wait until next year when the 5G networks at 3.5 GHz are better developed the sensitivities of the Swiss public matter. The Canton of Geneva recently issued a three-year moratorium on 5G. This means that all new antennas are subject to approval in this period. Behind this is the uncertainty about health risks due to the cell phone radiation emitted by 5G. So it remains exciting with the Confederates how the topic 5G develops.