Sunrise’s Early 5G Commitment in Switzerland Bolsters 5G Leader position

When the time came for 5G spectrum allocation in Switzerland at the beginning of 2019, the country’s No. 2 operator was more than ready. Setting 5G as a strategic priority, Sunrise positioned itself to launch the country’s first commercial 5G network, getting a jump on competitors and driving innovation.

Currently, 5G data accounts for 20% of the company’s total traffic, with 5G data doubling ca. every 24-36 months, says Alexander Lehrmann, Sunrise Senior Director of Innovation and Development. “The target was to start as one of the first 5G operator worldwide and the first operator in Europe and Switzerland, to get the technology out, get it into people's hands, and then build on from there,” he says. “It was important for us to take, possess and hold a leadership position when 5G became available.”

This being Switzerland, Sunrise placed a strong focus on the national pastime – skiing. The company erected the first 5G antenna in a skiresort, on the slopes, at the renowned Laax resort. Soon thereafter, the main sponsor of today of SwissSkiextended 5G coverage to 150 cities and villages. Coverage has since grown to more than 1,000 cities and towns with High Speed 5G (up to 2 Gbps) and more than 97% of the Swiss population with Basic 5G (up to 1 Gbps), and since launch the operator provides 5G fixed wireless access to people in rural areas who otherwise would have no access to broadband, Lehrmann says.

5G fixed wireless for homes is available through CPE (customer premise equipment) boxes combining WiFi routers with 5G modems. Boxes are installed outside buildings or indoors to give occupants “a sort of fiber through the air.”

Leadership in 5G Innovation

Driven by its “First on 5G” ambition, Sunrise has pursued a leadership position with a strategy of non-stop innovation. In the past two years, the operator has invested in combining 5G with technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to deliver immersive, virtual experiences, Lehrmann says. For example, a field management offering enables collaboration between experts at a central location and technicians in the field fixing a machine.

On the slopes, Sunrise has introduced livestreaming and immersive 360-degree live webcams. The webcams help skiers and snowboarders decide when to hit the trails. “People use them a lot in order to find out what's the weather situation in the ski resort,” Lehrmann says.

Livestreaming allows skiers and snowboarders to show off to their friends. “They want to get a video. They want to get it rendered on site immediately and then delivered to them, so they just need to post it to a website, to Facebook, or where they want to share it.”

To enhance 5G connectivity on the slopes, Sunrise has attached low-wattage antennas to snow cannons. “Snow cannons are connected with fiber. They have electricity supply, and they obviously have a water supply in order to turn water into snow. So we developed this kind of blueprint for combining a snow cannon with a low-watt antenna,” he says.

These offerings are accelerating the growth of 5G data on Sunrise’s network. The bulk of the operator’s traffic is still in the 4G network, Lehrmann says, but that will eventually change. “We are doing away with 2G as we speak, and 3G we have a plan to do away with in the coming three to four years.”

5G Joint Innovation Center

As Sunrise introduces each use case, the company is busy working on the next one at its 5G Joint Innovation Center, built in collaboration with strategic partner Huawei. The center serves as a research, development and staging facility for applications and use cases for different industries.

The center, Lehrmann says, makes 5G tangible, previewing the impact of specific service offerings for prospective customers of all types, from consumers to small and midsize businesses to enterprises. “We built it up to showcase use cases, showing 5G in combination with other technologies, and give target audiences a feel for what it does for them,” Lehrmann says.

Plans for Continued Investment

In promoting 5G use, Sunrise has had to fight some strong headwinds. As noted in GlobalData’s recent report on 5G success, health concerns related to 5G networks were especially strong in Switzerland, but Sunrise still managed to achieve “a high level of 5G success,” scoring exceptionally in network evolution and customer base penetration.

“And we continue to invest in the network,” says Lehrmann. “It's absolutely a key priority for us.” That’s why the company measure KPIs on how customers are using its networks. “Beside looking at network quality KPIs, we want to understand in deep what are the applications, what are the use cases that people use. That's very key to us.”

This content is sponsored by Huawei.

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