Operators in Switzerland are providing users with "outstanding" 5G speeds that outpace what is being provided in the US and the UK, according to a new report from testing firm RootMetrics.
The report for the second half of 2021 shows that Swisscom, Salt and Sunrise Communications all delivered 5G median download speeds of at least 172.1 Mbit/s. In the RootMetric report for the US market from November 2021, T-Mobile US was the only carrier to exceed median speeds of at least 100 Mbit/s in 21 cities. In the UK, a September 2021 report found that Bristol had the highest 5G median download speed of 144.3 Mbit/s.
At the same time, RootMetrics said its testing showed that while the 5G race in Switzerland is extremely competitive, and excellent progress has been made over the past year, some operators are further ahead of others when it comes to 5G.
For example, Swisscom led the competition, offering the top overall performance in the country. The incumbent also narrowly surpassed Sunrise in delivering the fastest 5G in Switzerland. At the same time, Sunrise showed by far the biggest increase in 5G availability of any network since 2020 and delivered great 5G speeds, RootMetrics observed.
As for Iliad-owned Salt, RootMetrics said it has shown "impressive progress since 2020" but is currently trailing Sunrise and Swisscom in what the testing firm described as a neck-and-neck 5G race. RootMetrics said it conducted nearly 60,000 tests across Switzerland in the second half of 2021.
Speed is of the essence – while availability matters too
It has to be said that the Swiss carriers are doing pretty well when you consider the obstacles they had to overcome in the early days of 5G. For one thing, the small European country is a skier's paradise, with more jagged peaks than convenient street furniture. The Swiss also became overly anxious about the supposed health risks of mobile network equipment. What's more, there are stricter limits on power levels than anywhere else in Europe.
Despite all this, Swisscom, with the help of Ericsson, has managed to construct a 5G network that today covers about 96% of the Swiss population. Sunrise opted for Huawei, while Salt is deploying Nokia kit.
RootMetrics said Swisscom clocked the fastest 5G median download speed in the country at 235.4 Mbit/s, marking a strong improvement from 153.9 Mbit/s a year ago. Swisscom also increased its 5G availability from 49.2% in H2 2020 to 66.0% in 2021. Swisscom's availability was roughly five times higher than that of Salt and slightly ahead of that of Sunrise.
Sunrise's 5G availability increased by 31.9% since the second half of 2020, jumping from 22.8% to 54.7%. In fact, Sunrise's availability was over four times higher than that of Salt (12.2%) and about 11% below that of Swisscom. Sunrise's 5G median download speed of 217.5 Mbit/s, meanwhile, represents a decline since H2 2020, but it was still faster than that of Salt and only just behind Swisscom.
While Salt delivered the "slowest" 5G median download speed among all three networks at 172.1 Mbit/s, that number marked a major improvement from 58.8 Mbit/s in H2 2020. Salt also improved its 5G availability over the past year, moving from just 2.3% in H2 2020 to 12.2% in 2021.
In terms of overall median download speed (across all network technologies, including 5G and 4G LTE), Salt improved its speed from 33.3 Mbit/s in 2020 to 69.4 Mbit/s and boosted its median upload speed from 20.4 Mbit/s in 2020 to 29.7 Mbit/s.
RootMetrics noted that Sunrise's 5G expansion had a clear impact on its overall median download speed, which increased from 60.6 Mbit/s a year ago to 87.5 Mbit/s this year, surpassing that of Salt but trailing that of Swisscom (154 Mbit/s). Swisscom's median upload speed jumped from 30.2 Mbit/s last year to 41.3 Mbit/s in 2021.
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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading