Switzerland will switch off in 2021: At the beginning of January, the semi-state mobile network operator Swisscom will switch off its GSM network. Private competition is also pulling along. The second generation of mobile communications, the “Global System for Mobile Communications”, is being phased out slowly for some and faster for others. While that will take another two years at Sunrise, Salt is almost through with the third party in the industry.
30 years of “Natel”
The first digital mobile network had its global start in 1991 with activation in Finland, GSM has been in operation in Germany since 1992 and Switzerland has also been part of it since March 1, 1993. Like the analog previous generation, which was mostly built into vehicles, it was called “Natel” by the Swiss – from “National Car Telephony Network”. In Switzerland, the name has become commonplace for end devices instead of “mobile phone” and is still used by quite a few Swiss people today.
Now 2G is to free up space for its more powerful successors and the frequencies used for the expansion of the new 4G and 5G mobile communications generations. In Switzerland hardly anyone uses GSM any more. According to the regulatory authority, the Federal Communications Commission (ComCom), 2G’s share of total mobile communications is now less than 1 percent.
The data transmission rates possible with GSM are too low for today’s needs, the bandwidth is just enough for short e-mails. The further developments GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution) enabled higher bandwidths on the GSM standard and are unofficially known as 2.5G (up to 54 kbit / s) or 2.75G (220 kbit / s). s), but were only an intermediate step to UMTS.
Industry leader Swisscom intends to gradually decommission its GSM network within a few weeks from January 4, 2021, explains a company spokeswoman. The aim is to ensure that all customers can be accompanied with questions. Swisscom would inform customers directly of their shutdown date. Important to know, also for German roaming customers: Depending on the device, it could happen that the device still shows 2G network reception, but logging into the network is no longer possible.
Sunrise continues to broadcast
Sunrise will continue to broadcast via 2G / GSM for the time being – until at least the end of 2022, a spokesman confirmed to heise online. Background: Sunrise still has permanently assigned frequencies in the 900 MHz band for GSM. In the future, Sunrise wants to dynamically assign frequencies in the 900 MHz band for 2G if necessary, and always when a pure GSM device in a radio cell actually requests a connection, the company explains.
At the third Swiss mobile network operator Salt Mobile, the “progressive 2G shutdown” began a few years ago, said a spokeswoman. Almost 90 percent of the 2G coverage at Salt is now deactivated. “Salt also keeps its 2G antennas active in areas where no other technology is available to ensure mobile coverage,” the spokeswoman emphasizes. However, LTE and UMTS are particularly important for ensuring optimal cellular coverage investments will be made here too.
3G mobile communications (UMTS, HSPA) are ringing the death bell in neighboring Germany. Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefónica-O2 are currently preparing for an end to 3G, which will most likely be the case with all three network operators in the course of the coming year. But none of the network operators in Switzerland is thinking of shutting down the third generation of mobile communications in the medium term. Swisscom will offer 3G until at least the end of 2024, Sunrise also has no plans to switch it off and Salt Mobile is even investing in 3G.
Internet of Things
Shutdown also plays a role for cellular modems, the Internet of Things (IoT) and M2M communication (machine-to-machine). If UMTS is switched off in Germany, such devices could still be operated with 2G for the time being. On the other hand, those who already operate modems and routers with 3G in Switzerland usually have an automatic fallback option to 2G. If the worst comes to the worst, maybe nothing will work here very soon.
Swisscom and Salt customers who still use 2G for M2M communication have to reposition themselves anyway. This can be the transmission of measured values or consumption data, applications of remote monitoring, remote control and remote maintenance or the exchange of information between systems and end devices with a central control center. A wide variety of applications in energy and building technology such as heating controls, elevator emergency calls or alarm systems can therefore be affected by the Swiss 2G shutdown.
While Switzerland could temporarily upgrade to 3G for this purpose, Swisscom only recommends this to a limited extent. Instead, the network operator advises to consult with the suppliers of the systems and to choose a suitable solution for individual needs. Swisscom considers a change to LTE or an IoT protocol such as LTE-M or Narrow-Band-IoT to be more sensible than an intermediate step via 3G, the spokeswoman emphasized. LoRaWAN is also supported by Swisscom. With Sunrise, however, this is not the case, technologies in other “non-licensed frequency bands such as Sigfox or Zigbee are not supported,” the company explained on request