Swiss consumers are continuing to invest in the latest telecommunications technology despite the sluggish economy.
The number of people with broadband internet access doubled in Switzerland last year, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In 2003 Switzerland’s telecoms market outstripped the rest of the economy, which languished in the doldrums.
The sector matched the four per cent gains seen in the European Union, according to the FCC.
“Swiss telecommunications providers estimate their turnover was SFr15 billion [$12.2 billion] in 2003,” commission president Fulvio Caccia told swissinfo.
Last year broadband replaced telephone communications as the main growth area.
Around 850,000 consumers now have some kind of broadband access – high-speed internet connections. Switzerland had the highest growth worldwide behind Sweden in 2003.
ADSL – or Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line – technology, which uses normal telephone lines for broadband access, saw the biggest gains.
After a slow start, it has now cornered nearly 60 per cent of the broadband market.
Broadband access via the cable television and radio network, which was overtaken by ADSL in 2003, accounts for the bulk of the rest.
“Private consumers fuelled most of this growth,” Peter Fischer, deputy director of the Federal Office of Communications, told swissinfo.
“Broadband access is still fairly new here, but marketing and competition between providers convinced the Swiss to hook up.”
Fischer said the Swiss telecoms market was now the seventh-biggest in Europe, fuelled by the spending power of consumers.
Slower mobile growth
But while broadband boomed, mobile phone sales slowed last year. According to the FCC, sales in Switzerland are close to peaking after recording exponential growth in the 1990s.
“The market has got to the point where nearly everybody has a mobile phone,” said Fischer. “Growth will only pick up again when new applications for cars or laptop computers appear on the market.”
Swisscom, the country’s largest telecommunications company, kept its grip on the mobile market, with a share of over 60 per cent. The former state monopoly’s dominant position is well above the international average.
Switzerland’s two other mobile operators, Sunrise and Orange, shared 20.5 and 17.7 per cent of the market respectively.
The FCC said the decision to open up the telecoms market in 1998 had been a success, with lower prices for customers and an increase in the number of services offered.
It added that nationwide access had been guaranteed despite market pressure, and that service providers had invested far more than was expected six years ago.
But the FCC said the state still had too strong a say on how the market was regulated.
Commission members are also demanding an end to Swisscom’s “last mile” monopoly of fixed line connections.
swissinfo with agencies
The Swiss telecommunications market was worth an estimated SFr15 billion last year.
Around 84 per cent of the population has access to a mobile phone.
Approximately 11.5 per cent of the population uses broadband internet connections.