Berne, 25 July 2006
At the beginning of the 1990s, the huge success of GSM mobiles inspired development engineers at Telecom PTT to come up with the idea of a rechargeable SIM card. The result was the prepaid card, which the company presented at the Telecom 95 trade fair. This innovation meant that it was now possible, for the first time, to make calls on a mobile phone without having to take out a written contract in advance: thanks to the prepaid card, customers could start calling people immediately after buying their phone. There were no fixed monthly costs, and prepaid credit allowed customers to keep the cost of their calls under control.
Following the positive response to this innovation, Telecom PTT immediately began marketing its prepaid system abroad. The mobile communications boom provided the ideal conditions for success: the first company to purchase the Telecom PTT product was the Portuguese operator Telecel in 1996, which launched its first prepaid service in winter 1996. Following hot on its heels was Omnitel Italia (now Vodafone), which installed the hardware and software for contract-free phoning. Before long, 90 percent of Omnitel customers were using a prepaid card. Subsequently a host of other European providers opted for the successful prepaid system, and they were joined by telecommunications companies from Asia and South America.
In November 1996, Telecom PTT launched its prepaid card in Switzerland under the name NATEL® easy, which sparked off a boom in the mobile market: By 1997 the number of NATEL® customers had reached one million. These days, more than one and a half million Swiss use NATEL® easy for their mobile calls.
Since the launch, Swisscom has continually enhanced the prepaid service and lowered prices. Since 1999, its prepaid customers have been able to use the service abroad as well. Since 2003, NATEL® easy customers have also enjoyed access to the full range of services available to customers with a written contract. These include sending pictures via MMS, video telephony, e-mail and live TV on their mobiles. And since last year, prepaid customers with NATEL® easy liberty have also been able to choose the popular Liberty hourly rate and pay only CHF 0.80 per call (to Swisscom Mobile numbers and the Swiss fixed network). Now customers can also top up online at the Swisscom Mobile website ? the selected amount is simply charged to the customer?s credit card.