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Interview with Heinz Herren





Head of IT, Network & Infrastructure on the network test.

“Our mobile network is world class – to the benefit of our customers”

Swisscom wins this year's comprehensive mobile network test in connect magazine with an outstanding commendation and shares the victory point-for-point with Sunrise. Both mobile service providers have also achieved the best results that connect has ever measured globally. In this interview, Heinz Herren, Swisscom CIO and CTO speaks about tests, the challenges of extending the mobile network and 5G.

Sonja Majinovic, 28 November 2017

Heinz Herren, Swisscom came first in the connect network test but had to share this victory with Sunrise. Is there no longer any difference between the mobile networks in Switzerland?

We are delighted to have won the connect network test. Swisscom took the overall victory with an absolutely top result. I am very proud of that. The mobile network test carried out recently by Systematics also produced the same result. And we didn’t have to share the winner's podium with anyone there (laughs). The results of these tests show that the Swiss networks are absolutely world class. There is no doubt that we are operating at an incredibly high level in Switzerland. And obviously our competitors are investing in their mobile networks too. The competition in Switzerland works to the benefit of customers.

Are these mobile network tests really significant? Don’t they just provide a snapshot?

These tests are important to Swisscom. They show us how our network is perceived. And now there are a plethora of different tests: walk tests and drive tests, like those carried out by connect, Chip or Systematics, plus customer surveys and speed tests using apps, like those offered by cnlab or OpenSignal. Yes, the walk and drive tests are snapshots. But they show us how customers experience our mobile network. We obviously check our network all the time and invest a huge amount in developing our business. This year, for instance, we have made enormous improvements in all areas of the mobile network, focussing on Voice and data in particular.

Swisscom has won the main category of “Mobile Data”. In the cities, however, the coverage is not always perfect at peak times.

If you want to surf on the move, you need to stick with Swisscom. Our network capacity utilization is obviously particularly high in the busiest places. Added to that is the fact that mobile data transmission continues to double every year. Swisscom consolidates its network wherever it can to cope with this. By the end of this year, we will expand the provision with a speed of 1 Gbit/s in 11 cities step by step. As well as increased speed, this also provides our customers with more capacity. However, expanding the network in cities is highly challenging because we have reached the NIR capacity limits here. That is why we are pursuing a change to the decree on protection from non-ionising radiation. The evaluation methods also need to be adapted in this regard. And the legal building requirements need to be revised.

Changed user behaviour has led to exponentially increased data volumes being transmitted in the Swisscom network.

Why is Swisscom demanding an amendment of ONIR when according to connect Switzerland already has better networks than Germany or Austria, for instance?

In comparison to the rest of Europe, the Swiss mobile networks come out very well. In fact, our performance is the best in Europe. Every year we build or modernise around 300 mobile telephony sites, allowing us to keep pace with the continually increasing customer demand for mobile data transmission. However, the number of sites that we can build is not growing at anything like the rate of mobile data usage. We need new sites. Protracted approval procedures make that even harder. The precautionary ONIR limits are set 10 times higher so it is not possible to expand 90% of the existing locations in urban areas any further now. We need additional mobile telephony sites. If we don't find them, we won't be able to use the new technologies.

It won’t be long until we reach the capacity limits of the mobile network in our cities.
Picture: Keystone

What do you mean?

The current ONIR provisions prevent Switzerland modernising the mobile network with 5G technology quickly and effectively. That hampers Switzerland's competitiveness. Implementing the strategy to digitise our country and strengthen Switzerland as a business location depends on a change to the ONIR.

How is Swisscom pursuing expansion?

We are investing massively in the expansion of LTE Advanced; we currently have 80% coverage up to 300 Mbit/s and 60% coverage up to 450 Mbit/s. Then there is the expansion of 1 Gigabit, which we are leading across Switzerland. By the end of this year, we will expand the provision with 1 Gbit/s in 11 cities step by step. Our customers can test this tremendous speed in 15 different Swisscom Shops too.

Where is Swisscom when it comes to 5G?

In summer 2017 we demonstrated the first 5G applications with NB-IoT, network slicing and 5G speed. We are testing other 5G applications with our industry partner Ypsomed. We are working intensively on the developing 5G to make the new technology available to our customers as soon as possible. I am convinced that the next 5G mobile generation is a key technology and represents the opportunity of a generation. It will offer more than just increased speed and capacity. It will create the operating system of the digital economy. Our future competitiveness depends directly on this powerful infrastructure. It will enable lots of new applications that we have not even thought of yet. Just like 10 years ago, when no-one could predict the types of communication and new areas of business the mobile Internet and apps would enable. 5G is a platform for the next wave of innovation. I am very excited about what the future holds. 

Heinz Herren

Head of IT, Network & Infrastructure has been a member of the Group Executive Board at Swisscom since 2012. As Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Technology Officer (CTO), he is responsible for the expansion of the Swisscom network.

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The network of the future.

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