Swisscom CTO goes on offensive about "strict" Swiss regulation hindering 5G

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Swisscom has attacked the Swiss government for hindering its work in researching 5G, which it described as "the operating system for the digital economy".

Speaking to Mobile Europe, CTO Heinz Herren says the operator is making targeted investments in researching the technology and enabling the digitisation of its home market.

Testing of network slicing and edge computing is currently underway with Swiss diabetes equipment supplier Ypsomed, although Herren is cagey on what the tests entail.

It is aiming to hold more widespread field trials of network slicing next year but before it can do so, Herren says regulation in the country needs to change considerably.

He says: "Swisscom is of the opinion…that the development of an effective, nationwide 5G network will be hindered by the framework conditions currently in place in Switzerland."

The country is in contrast to the likes of Germany and the United Kingdom, which are plowing ahead with 5G plans of their own, says Herren. Instead, he claims, operators are working under conditions "10 times stricter" than their European counterparts. He accuses the Swiss authorities of being too risk averse in their policies.

[Read more: Swisscom CTO targets IoT education, says there is no best technology]

Herren says the shift towards 5G will require a "completely new ecosystem" with a variety of stakeholders involved that is much greater than previous cellular standards.

In addition to nailing the 5G standard, Herren adds: "The framework conditions must also be redefined to ensure that 5G can be used as the operating system for digitalisation in Switzerland."

Network slicing trials aside, Herren says he envisages 5G pilot projects taking place from 2019 before a commercial rollout takes place the following year.

Despite widespread predictions about what the technology will power, Swisscom's CTO thinks its full potential is as hidden as when LTE was first on the horizon. He says: "We are yet to see the potential of the way in which 5G can be used, in the same way that people 10 years ago could not ever foresee the way in which mobile internet and apps would grow."

He adds: "In much clearer terms, 5G will in many respects replace all networks and infrastructures. Using radio as an example, he says NR will significantly increase capacities to such an extent that mobile phone networks will be able to support speeds of several GB per second, while the expansion of LTE will result in improvements being made to the overall quality of service due to lower latency.

"Edge computing will allow us to bring services and applications in closer proximity to our customers, which is extremely beneficial to serving the needs of our industrial customers,” Herren adds. “Slicing will also ensure more flexibility in the provision and development of new services. For example, in the case of a critical application such as driverless vehicles, we could forego using a dedicated network and simply provide a new slice that is optimally configured for this specific purpose."

In the meantime, Swisscom is stretching the reach of its LTE-Advanced network, which is set to offer speeds of up to 300MBps to 67 percent of the population by the end of this year, up from 40 percent today.

Fifteen percent of Swiss can hit speeds of up to 450MBps and 11 cities should be able to access 1GBps, compatible handsets permitting, by the end of 2017.

Herren says LTE-Advanced will help improve the overall performance of the network and then illustrates this with one of the more inspired metaphors you will hear in telecoms circles.

He says: "A good analogy would be if carrier aggregation ran a bar, the drinks would be served with two straws instead of one. In exactly the same way as your thirst is quenched quicker, mobile customers can be offered greater speeds and capacity, thus ensuring a much improved experience."

But in order to quench Swisscom's thirst for 5G, the country's government needs to get its house in order.