Swisscom and its regulator lay the groundwork for 5G

As the Swiss regulator, ComCom, gears up to allocate 5G-suitable spectrum, national operator Swisscom is planning to deploy Gigabit LTE nationwide from next year and kick off 5G in 2020.

The operator is working with Ericsson on a whole network transformation which, in addition to the radio upgrades, will involve virtualization, agile networking, low latency services and network slicing. The Swedish vendor will deploy a full-stack telco cloud to improve cost-effectiveness, efficiency and flexibility.

Swisscom will also use Ericsson’s RAN, including macro and small cells, and its core, including full-stack NFV infrastructure, a virtualized EPC (evolved packet core), and virtualized IMS (IP multimedia subsystem). Ericsson will also support network optimization, planning, design and integration.

Like many MNOs, Swisscom knows that it can only justify this kind of expense if the new network can support additional revenue streams in addition to mobile broadband. It is aiming to accelerate its ability to offer mission critical services and enable massive IoT applications, and has its eyes on high value use cases like factory automation, smart grid and digital health.

Arun Bansal, head of Europe and Latin America at Ericsson, said: “5G is enabling new market opportunities for operators, industries and society as a whole. With its ambitious 5G roll-out plans, Swisscom is seizing this opportunity.”

Swisscom started Gigabit LTE deployment earlier this month, initially to boost targeted indoor data rates in areas like retail stores, using Ericsson’s Radio Dot indoor solution.  It is planning to introduce gigabit technology to 11 cities by the end of the year. It currently delivers peak speeds of 300Mbps to 80% of the population and 450Mbps to 60%.

Meanwhile, ComCom is looking ahead to 5G, planning to allocate new spectrum for 4G expansion and 5G in the second half of next year. The country’s Federal Council has just approved changes to the National Frequency Allocation Plan, designating the 694 MHz-790 MHz range for mobile rather than broadcast usage. That means 700 MHz – which many European regulators are regarding as a 5G coverage or IoT band – can be included in the next allocation, along with 1.4 GHz and 3.5-3.8 GHz, also being earmarked for 5G in many frontrunning 5G countries including China, Japan and South Korea.

In addition, there is a block of spectrum in 2.6 GHz band that was left unsold in 2012, which will be re-auctioned. That will available as soon as it is sold, while the other airwaves will be available from 2019.

“There is great interest in these new frequencies,” ComCom said, citing the results of a public consultation it carried out over the summer. “They will help overcome capacity bottlenecks in today’s 4G mobile radio networks. On the other hand, these are important frequencies for the 5G mobile radio technology of the future.”

ComCom will formally begin the award process with an invitation to tender in the spring, but it has yet to finalize the terms of the process. Interested parties will have a chance to comment on the draft tender documents.