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Seven hopefuls bid to enter Swiss mobile market

All seven bidders plan to use existing mobile networks to offer their services Keystone

Seven companies have come forward to apply for three new mobile licences in Switzerland.

This content was published on October 6, 2003 - 18:08

The Federal Communications Office (Ofcom) hopes the new licences will make the Swiss mobile market more competitive.

Switzerland’s mobile subscribers currently pay the highest mobile rates in Europe, apart from Norway.

The three existing mobile operators - Swisscom, Orange and Sunrise - were not allowed to apply for the new Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) licences, which will be awarded by the end of the year.

Boosting competition

Urs von Arx of Ofcom says increasing the number of operators in the Swiss market should benefit mobile users.

“At the moment we have three operators in Switzerland, and prices don’t move very much for the end customers,” says von Arx. “So we’d like to stimulate a bit of competition.”

Comparis, an independent price watchdog, also believes the new licences will help bring prices for mobile services down.

“We urgently need more competition, because the rates for mobile calls have basically not changed since 2000,” said Ralf Beyeler, a telecommunications specialist at Comparis.

“Consumers should be able to look forward to reductions of between ten and 30 per cent on mobile calls.”

Subscribers to Switzerland’s leading mobile operator, Swisscom, haven’t seen prices for domestic calls change in three years. Sunrise has not changed its domestic tariffs since autumn 2000, while Orange made slight changes in spring 2002.

Niche market

However, von Arx says the licences may go to companies wishing to offer niche products, which would only have a limited effect on prices.

“It’s possible that there will only be an influence for certain market segments, such as business customers," he said.

Of the seven bids it has received, Ofcom says only one company has ambitions to create a new mobile network.

The Swedish group Tele2 - Switzerland’s second biggest fixed-line service provider - plans to offer both prepaid and contract mobile services, including such popular products as multimedia SMS messaging.

In four to five years, Tele2 aims to have secured a 15 per cent share of the Swiss mobile market by offering competitive prices.

Instead of building its own mobile network in Switzerland, Tele2 says it is looking to secure a roaming deal with an existing operator. This means it can use that operator’s network to transport its calls, saving on infrastructure costs.

In-flight calls

The International society of aeronautical telecommunications (SITA), which has a branch in Geneva, has plans for a more specialised product than Tele2.

SITA hopes to create a mobile system that can be used on aeroplanes. Mobiles are currently banned on planes because their electromagnetic waves interfere with the craft’s onboard systems.

SITA plans to develop technology that limits the electromagnetic waves emitted by mobiles, allowing people to use their mobiles when flying in the same way they can on land.

SITA says it would sign up existing operators instead of targeting mobile users directly.

Other companies applying for a new licence are: In&Phone, based in Vevey; Geneva-based Télésonique; the Basel-based Global Networks Switzerland; Swissphone Systems in canton Schwyz and the Ticino-based Technocell.

A team of experts will analyse the seven companies’ offers, assessing their financial commercial and the technical viability. They will then present their findings to the Federal Communications Commission, which will make the final decision.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Each GSM licence has a bandwidth of 3.8MHz, which may be extended, if required.

The bidders are:
- Tele2, Switzerland’s second biggest fixed-line service provider;
- In&Phone, based in Vevey; Télésonique, based in Geneva;
- the International society of aeronautical telecommunications (SITA);
- Global Networks Switzerland, a mobile service provider;
- Technocell, based in canton Ticino;
- Swissphone Systems, in canton Schwyz.

The licences will be awarded at the end of 2003.

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