5G in Switzerland: What you need to know

5G in Switzerland: What you need to know

You've probably heard of 5G. This new mobile communications standard facilitates digitization and, among other things, allows larger volumes of data to be transmitted more quickly and efficiently. At the same time, however, there are reservations among the Swiss population about the expansion of the 5G network. In this article, we clarify all open questions on the topic of 5G in Switzerland. 

Table of contents: 

What is 5G?

The advantages of 5G

How fast is 5G?

5G hurdles in Switzerland

Which 5G cell phone subscriptions are available? 

Is 5G dangerous for our health?

What do I need to use 5G?

-> 5G cell phones & The right 5G cell phone subscription


Our society is becoming increasingly digital. According to the Federal Office for the Environment, the amount of data transmitted via the mobile network doubles every year. The strong link between man and machine, accordingly requires a powerful network. This need for data transmission has so far been met by 3G and 4G/LTE, but these technologies could soon reach their limits. In order to increase data transmission capacity, 5G was introduced in 2019 and the network has since been under construction in Switzerland as well. According to the Swiss Telecommunications Association (Asut), Switzerland is one of the world's leading countries in 5G deployment, along with the US and South Korea. 


What is 5G? 

The G stands for generation. 5G thus refers to the 5th generation of mobile communications, which is also currently the latest and the successor to 4G/LTE. What is special about 5G is the high achievable speed of data transmission, which can reach up to 10 Gbit per second. Probably even more impressive, however, is the low delay time that 5G brings with it. The delay time is also called latency time and means the concrete time span between the sending of a certain information and the corresponding response. Ideally, 5G enables a latency of just one millisecond, which then results in near real-time transmission. That means hardly any more delays in your FaceTime conversations or when streaming your favorite movies. 

Infographic 1 5G mast supplies up to one million devices on one square kilometer


The benefits of 5G 

What does fast internet and low latency bring us? For one, of course, faster mobile Internet for better communication and smooth use of multimedia applications like games and streaming. This smooth connection should additionally be guaranteed with the 5G network, even in crowds. In other words, you no longer have to worry about a weak mobile Internet connection in the stadium or on the festival grounds. A single 5G mast is said to be able to supply up to one million devices on one square kilometer with fast Internet. 

5G facilitates virtual reality and smart home

For home users, virtual reality technologies are difficult to access at the moment. But 5G is expected to change that in the future. The fast Internet connection that the network guarantees is the basis for any virtual reality application. The low latency also makes it feel especially real. This is also very useful for smart home devices: for example, televisions, roller shutters or garage doors can be controlled by voice, responding to commands without delay. If this works, the same technologies can later be used for security purposes. Example: one can set up systems at home that report a burglary to the police in real time through 5G.


How fast is 5G?

To indicate the network speed of an Internet connection, one uses the number of data processed per second. The smallest data unit is the bit. The Internet speed can therefore be specified in bit/s. If larger amounts of data can be transmitted, the Internet speed increases to kilobits (kbit/s), megabits (Mbit/s), gigabits (Gbit/s) and terabits (Tbit/s). 

In theory, 5G reaches speeds of up to 10 Gbit/s. That would make it a full 100 times faster than 4G. But at the moment, 5G in Switzerland does not yet reach this maximum speed. Even with a special 5G subscription, you can currently only get a maximum speed of 2 Gbit/s from Swiss mobile providers, because the network is not being expanded at the moment. There are two reasons for this. 


5G hurdles in Switzerland

In order for the 5G network to operate reliably in Switzerland and reach the maximum speed, there are three options: Build more antennas, increase radiation protection limits, or create a combination of the two. 

Radiation protection limit

The main reason for the slower 5G network is Switzerland's radiation protection limits. In fact, Switzerland has set limits for mobile communications that are ten times stricter than those recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). As a result, 5G cannot transmit at its full power, but can only use a fraction of its power. This applies to all mobile radio standards from 3G to 5G. 

Antennas Construction permit 

According to the Federal Office of Communications in Switzerland, there are currently 6000 active 5G antennas in the country. These could still be built relatively quickly at the beginning of the 5G network rollout, as already existing antennas can be converted without much effort through a software update. For this reason, many cantons were able to have the antennas approved with a so-called simplified legal procedure. With such a procedure, objections from citizens are not possible, which has allowed mobile network providers to expand their 5G network unhindered. 

But the Intercantonal Conference of Directors of Construction, Planning and the Environment (BPUK) has decided, based on a legal opinion, that this will no longer be possible. A regular procedure is now also required for retrofitting. This means that objections will be possible, which will make it more difficult to issue building permits in the cantons. If you want to learn more about the 5G antenna permit situation in Switzerland, it is best to read our article on the 5G network rollout.

Adaptive antennas

To build completely new 5G antennas, a building permit has always been needed. Getting this takes time and sometimes even up to two years. But this is not the only reason why antenna construction in Switzerland is currently lagging behind a bit. Also the numerous objections of the population against the construction of new antennas causes delays. The new antennas are so-called adaptive antennas. They are able to send the signal more specifically in the direction of the cell phone. This reduces the radiation in other directions. In contrast, conventional mobile communications antennas transmit with a spatial distribution that is always the same.

Infographic new vs. old 5G antennas


What 5G cell phone subscriptions are available? 

Whether 5G is available on your cell phone also depends on your network operator. Depending on the rollout strategy the company is aiming for, 5G will have different levels of coverage. Moreover, this varies from region to region. Currently, 5G is only available from the three big providers Swisscom, Sunrise and Salt. Yallo offers 5G as an additional option for its subscriptions. 

5G at Swisscom

At Swisscom, 5G is already included in your mobile subscription. However, you only get the currently available maximum speed of 2 Gbit/s with the inOne mobile Premium and the inOne mobile Data XL subscription. Swisscom offers the Premium Speed Option for this. You can add this to any subscription and then enjoy 5G Internet without any speed limit. The option costs CHF 10 per month. 

Swisscom already started rolling out the 5G network in 2018 and now covers 96% of the Swiss population. It also offers the so-called 5G+. According to Swisscom, this is 5G that comes from the adaptive antennas specifically built for it. To see which 5G you can receive from Swisscom in your area, check out the Swisscom network map here

No 5G at Wingo and M-Budget

Neither Swisscom's subsidiary Wingo nor its partner M-Budget currently have a 5G subscription offer. It is still unclear if and when 5G will also be available at these providers. 

5G at Sunrise

Sunrise already activated the first 5G antenna in the summer of 2018 and was able to provide 713 cities and towns throughout Switzerland with 5G as of February 2021. You can check the exact coverage here on the Sunrise network map

5G is always included in Sunrise mobile subscriptions, so you don't have to pay anything extra. However, there is a speed limit with the cheaper subscriptions and you can only enjoy the full 2 Gbit/s with the We Mobile XL subscription. On the other hand, Sunrise offers 5G even for prepaid. There is the prepaid take away option, which costs CHF 3.- per day and allows you unlimited surfing with 5G. 

Yallo 5G subscriptions

The Sunrise subsidiary Yallo also offers 5G for its customers. Here, however, it is not included in the subscription, but must be booked as an option. With CHF 9.- extra per month, 5G is also available in your subscription. 

Quickline 5G subscriptions

Customers of the telecommunications company Quickline also surf on Sunrise's network and benefit from its 5G: 5G is included in the cell phone subscriptions L and XL without speed limit. 

No 5G with UPC

With a subscription with UPC, you also benefit from Sunrise Nett, but not from their 5G. This is not included in the UPC cell phone subscription. Instead, the provider refers you to get a 5G cell phone subscription with Sunrise right away. 

5G at Salt

At Salt, every customer currently has 5G included in their subscription without any speed reduction. This also applies to their prepaid offer. Also with Salt, 5G reaches a maximum speed of 2 Gbit/s. You can find more detailed info on Salt's network coverage on the Salt website.


Is 5G dangerous for our health?

Even before the introduction of 5G, people were asking whether smartphones and mobile communications antennas pose risks to our health. With the 5G network rollout, however, fears of health hazards from mobile radiation are growing again. An online survey by ETH Zurich has confirmed this: 57% of respondents believe that 5G would have a greater impact on health than 4G and 3G. Many such rumors are circulating about 5G. But what does science have to say about it?  

5G has no health risks

In 2019, the Swiss government's "Mobile Communications and Radiation" working group looked into the issue of 5G and health and. The researchers came to the unequivocal conclusion that health risks of the mobile frequencies used today cannot be proven. This is mainly because mobile communications are non-ionizing radiation whose energy is not sufficient to change your DNA. Unlike X-rays, for example, which are ionizing radiation. However, since health effects can never be ruled out with absolute certainty, it is important to continue research on the subject, he said. 

Swiss are sufficiently protected 

The basic technology of 5G is the same as that of previous generations, and even there, scientific knowledge showed that there are no health-related effects as long as the limits are observed. In Switzerland, the risk is even smaller because the limits for mobile radiation are ten times stricter than abroad. 

In addition, 5G's novel adaptive antennas use more efficient technology, which means that information is not only sent faster but also in a more directional manner. This reduces radiation in all directions, as it is limited only to the end device - i.e. your cell phone. 

If you want to read more about 5G health risks, you can do so in this alao post. 


What do I need to be able to use 5G?

To access the 5G network with your cell phone, you need a special chip. However, this is not yet built into all phones and it can't be retrofitted into older smartphones. But don't worry, there are already several manufacturers producing 5G-enabled smartphones.

5G phones

Samsung made the start in 2019 with the Galaxy S10 Plus. Right after that, other manufacturers followed suit. In the meantime, 5G devices can be found at almost all manufacturers. We have compiled an overview of all 5G phones available in Switzerland in this article. 

The right 5G cell phone subscription

Without the right cell phone subscription, however, even a 5G-capable cell phone is of no use. So make sure that 5G is included in your subscription or that you can add the right option. Take a look at our Mobile Subscription Finder and order a cell phone subscription perfectly tailored to your needs in just a few minutes. And even if your contract is still running: We will cancel your old contract on time and take your phone number with you free of charge. You only pay when the contract is activated.

Like the article? Spread the word