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Interview with Christoph Aeschlimann

Head of IT, Network & Infrastructure on the Network Expansion Strategy 2025

“We are equipping our network for the new decade.”

Swisscom has set out its network expansion strategy until the end of 2025. By that date, the company intends to have doubled its fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) coverage and upgraded the existing network. Swisscom will also focus increasingly on combining a range of different network technologies. In this interview, Christoph Aeschlimann, CIO and CTO of Swisscom, fleshes out the whys and wherefores.
Bruno Böhlen
Bruno Böhlen, Corporate Journalist
06 February 2020

Data traffic is growing exponentially in Switzerland. Over the past decade, volumes have increased by more than 1,000% across the Swisscom wireline network alone, with increases of more than 12,000% seen in mobile communications. A powerful network infrastructure is crucial if society and the economy are to make the most of the opportunities presented by the digital age. In the new decade, Swisscom has therefore committed to fulfilling its pledge of providing all customers with the network services they need, anytime and anywhere, so that they can enjoy the highest quality services.

At today's annual results press conference, you showcased Swisscom’s new network strategy until the end of 2025. What is the strategy?

In the future, Swisscom wants to continue to offer its customers the best network in Switzerland, anytime and anywhere, thus guaranteeing that they will enjoy the highest quality digital services in the new decade. We have therefore set ourselves new expansion goals: by the end of 2025, we intend to double the fibre-to-the-home coverage for homes and offices when compared to 2019. 50–60% of all homes and offices will then enjoy transmission speeds of up to 10 Gbit/s. Meanwhile, work to upgrade the existing FTTS network continues apace, ensuring that an additional 30–40% of homes and offices will have transmission speeds of 300–500 Mbit/s by the end of 2025.

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This is equivalent to premium ultra-fast broadband coverage. It is fair to say that user behaviour has changed rapidly over recent years. People can now work, watch films, listen to music and engage gaming and social networking whenever and wherever they like. What are the implications for the infrastructure?

For us, this means that network technology is increasingly less important from the customer perspective. Our customers want immediate, premium quality access to a specific service, such as online videos, irrespective of their location. That is why we will also focus increasingly on combined network technologies in the future. We need to see smart interaction between the fixed and mobile networks. In specific cases, primarily in rural regions, it may make more commercial sense to provide coverage to customers by combining the mobile and fixed networks - perhaps even exclusively via the mobile network in the future - rather than by expanding the network infrastructure. We will therefore guarantee the universal broadband service as a minimum, although we will do significantly more than that in many cases.

What role does 5G technology play in this?

5G technology is hugely important in this context. Today, in many cantons, we are seeing obstacles to rapid progress. However, to ensure that rural areas don’t lag behind more densely populated regions in respect of broadband provision, they are reliant on the latest mobile technology. At the same time, we currently provide the best mobile network in Switzerland with our 4G network, and when combined with our fixed network, we can use it to provide an exceptional customer experience.

Does the new strategy mean that Swisscom is abandoning its aim of upgrading the wireline broadband network in every Swiss community by the end of 2021?

No, we are committed to this objective and will have upgraded the wireline network in all communities by the end of 2021, as well as providing speeds of between 80 Mbit/s and 10 Gbit/s to 90% of homes and offices. We are well on track to meet this goal, having rolled out the upgrades to 74% of homes and offices by the end of 2019 in line with this schedule. Almost half of all Swiss homes and offices now enjoy speeds of more than 200 Mbit/s. Of these 1.5 million have been upgraded to FTTH.

The new strategy builds on the excellent progress made in recent years and sets out what will happen post-2021.

In recent years, Swisscom has primarily focused on the expansion of FTTS/B; in other words, fibre optics stopping just in front of buildings or into their cellars. Is the switch to FTTH an admission that this was the wrong strategy?

Not at all. Firstly, we have continued to roll out FTTH expansion in recent years, despite those people who were opposed to it. Secondly, FTTS/B has enabled us to carry out important preliminary work prior to subsequent FTTH rollout. This gradual expansion has allowed us to deliver noticeable improvements to broadband coverage for every community in just a short space of time. Therefore, in my view, it was absolutely the right decision. We can now simply take the fibre optics that went to the building or the cellar in the FTTS/B setup and feed them into homes and offices. As in the past, I would also say that, wherever possible, we are keen to carry out the FTTH expansion by 2025 in cooperation with a partner.

Wherever FTTH cannot be rolled out by 2025, existing FTTS networks will be upgraded. Earlier in the expansion programme, older network elements were used in several areas of Switzerland. These will be replaced in the years to come so that our customers can enjoy even faster speeds.



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Christoph Aeschlimann has been a member of the Group Executive Board of Swisscom since February 2019 and is Head of IT, Network & Infrastructure.