Swisscom unveils 3G mobile services
Switzerland’s leading telecommunications firm has officially launched its third-generation (3G) mobile phone services, which will include video and television.
Swisscom said the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) would cover about 90 per cent of the population.
Swisscom’s UMTS will transmit data initially at a rate of up to 384 kilobytes per second.
This transmission speed means that customers will be able to see as well as speak to other subscribers using similar 3G handsets. Television broadcasts and music downloads will also be available.
At first, only programmes from the country’s main television stations will be available to download, along with a few other selected channels.
Swisscom has set a price of SFr4 for 30 minutes of television, SFr8 for an hour and SFr12 for a day.
“Video transmissions answer a ‘here and now’ consumer need,” said the head of Swisscom Mobile, Carsten Schloter.
The operator expects to have signed up 20,000 UMTS customers by the end of the year.
Sex and cartoons
Until the end of the year, video calls will be no more expensive than normal mobile telephone conversations. Swisscom plans to set up a new cost structure in 2005 based on consumer demand.
Video clips and games will also be available. Initially, 100 clips will be made available to subscribers, ranging from sport to erotic images, as well as music and cartoons.
Two 3G compatible mobile phones are available on the market, while a third handset is expected to go on sale by the beginning of next year.
The operator has invested more than SFr100 million in setting up the new UMTS network that will run parallel to the existing mobile phone technology.
Owners of UMTS phones in Switzerland will be able to use them outside the country, although international roaming will be initially restricted to Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.
Swisscom’s competitors, Orange and Sunrise, are also planning to roll out 3G services.
Orange, a subsidiary of France Telecom, has begun offering services to business users around Zurich. Private customers will have to wait until next year.
Orange says it plans to offer coverage for the equivalent of 50 per cent of the population by the end of 2004.
Sunrise, the smallest of Switzerland’s three mobile phone operators, says its coverage should reach one in two Swiss sometime next year.
swissinfo with agencies
At the end of last year, there were 6.189 million mobile phone customers in Switzerland.
Around 3.9 billion mobile phone calls were made last year.
This represented 5.1 billion minutes spent on the phone.
The average call lasted approximately 90 seconds.
UMTS technology has been criticised by doctors and consumer protection associations.
A Dutch study has shown that radiation emitted by UMTS systems is more harmful to a person’s health than older mobile systems.
Some users were found to suffer from vertigo, heightened nervousness or have trouble concentrating.
Researchers at Zurich’s Federal Institute of Technology are currently conducting measures of UMTS radiation and its effects.
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