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Press release

NATEL® D celebrates its birthday: ten years of GSM telephony in Switzerland

27 February 2003

The term NATEL® was created in 1978 as an abbreviation of Nationales Autotelefon [national carphone], and has been an unexpected success story ever since. The first digital mobile communications network in Switzerland, the 900 MHz GSM network was launched commercially in March 1993 with the name NATEL® D. GSM technology is now a huge success throughout the world: in less than ten years, the number of users has rocketed from 1.4 million in 1993 to over 800 million at the end of last year, and today there are network operators in 192 countries. The number of SMS messages is also rising. A total of 360 billion SMS messages were sent globally in 2002, and this upward trend shows no signs of slowing down.

The key milestones in the NATEL® D success story: 

1993: Commercial launch of the NATEL® D network in Switzerland with the prefix 079; at this stage the 900 MHz GSM network is only available in urban areas and along the main transport routes.

1995: Telecom PTT launches SMS (Short Message Service). The service enables customers to send text messages of up to 160 characters between mobile phones.

1996: Switzerland?s first prepaid mobile product is launched under the name NATEL® easy.

1997: The GSM 900 network is merged with the GSM 1800 networks in Geneva, Zurich and Basel, creating Switzerland's first dualband network. November sees the 1,000,000th customer registered on the NATEL® D network.

1998: Two more mobile phone licences are awarded as part of the liberalisation of the Swiss telecommunications market.

2001: HSCSD (High Speed Circuit Switched Data) is launched, providing higher data transmission rates on the GSM network.

2002: GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) is available to all NATEL® subscribers from February onwards. With GPRS, data is transmitted in the form of packets. The first MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) messages are sent in Switzerland in June. MMS makes it possible to send pictures, sound or longer, formatted texts via mobile phone. At the end of 2002 there are more than 5.5 million active mobile lines in Switzerland, and GSM coverage is guaranteed in over 99% of Switzerland?s populated areas.

Berne, 27 February 2003


Swisscom AG
Media Relations
3050 Bern