Swisscom plots the end of 2G as it moves to launch 5G in 2020

Swisscom said it will launch a 5G network in 2020 as part of a three-step plan designed to enable the operator to meet soaring demand for mobile data.

In a statement, the operator said it will spend the next five years fine-tuning its recently launched LTE Advanced (LTE-A) network to provide greater capacity and speed, and will augment that infrastructure with 5G technology to boost data rates and capacity.

Swisscom promised that data rates would begin to rise from 2016 as it initiates further developments of its LTE-A network. The operator has currently deployed the technology in 16 cities in the country, and noted that a pilot project in the city of Fribourg is taking it towards having the ability to offer data rates of 450 Mbps on its 4G infrastructure.

Other elements to its three-stage approach include increasing network capacity in urban areas through deploying microcells for cable conduits that Swisscom has developed in-house. The operator explained that the devices are installed into existing fixed network conduits to boost wireless bandwidth and Internet access, and that is it now ready to extend a pilot scheme conducted during the first half of 2015 in Berne to three additional cities.

Swisscom stated that if that extended trial proves successful, it could move to deploy the microcells commercially in 2016.

The third stage in Swisscom's plan is to end support for GSM (2G) technology from the end of 2020. The operator explained that the move will enable it to obtain the frequencies and capacity necessary to match future demand for mobile phone and data communications.

Swisscom said 2G today carries 0.5 per cent of mobile data traffic, but that the technology takes up 30 per cent of antenna capacity.

Heinz Herren, head of IT, network and innovation at Swisscom, said the operator is acting now to ensure it can meet future demand.

"Our customers want to have access to the mobile broadband network any time, anywhere -- and want to do so with excellent network quality and stability," Herren said, adding that the company now needs "to equip the network specifically for future requirements."

Swisscom revealed it is already dealing with massive data demand. The company's mobile network handles close to 290,000 GB of data each day, which equates to an annual total of around 1 million GB -- a figure the operator said is doubling every year.

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