Mobile communications: evolution towards 5G

Every year the volume of data exchanged on the mobile network doubles. The introduction of the 3rd generation 3G (UMTS) in the middle of the 2000s, and then the rollout of the 4th generation 4G (LTE) from 2012 onwards made it possible to cover requirements, until now. These technologies, however, are now reaching their limits. The introduction of 5G will make it possible to appreciably increase data transmission capacities.

Grafik 5G (Stadt)

Frequently asked Questions

The FAQs provide additional information on 5G relating to technology, antennas, frequency allocations, licences and responsibilities.

New technology, new antennas

For the deployment of 5G, operators are installing new 'adaptive antennas' that transmit information specifically to individual users who therefore benefit from optimal data transmission rate. In all other directions, transmission power is reduced.

Adaptive antenna
Traditional antenna

Tests and measurements on adaptive antennas

In March 2020, the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications tasked OFCOM with conducting tests on adaptive antennas.

The measurements and simulations conducted in the course of this task revealed that

  • the average level of exposure from adaptive antennas is significantly lower than from classic antennas;
  • Conventional antennas transmit mainly to the centre of their coverage area. The further the user is from this central part, the lower the transmission quality. Adaptive antennas, on the other hand, send data specifically to the end device, regardless of its position in the coverage area. The communication maintains the same quality and speed, even at the edge of the area.
  • the "power-lock" function (automatic power limiter), which has to be integrated into each adaptive antenna, ensure that emission limit values are respected by limiting transmission power to a mean value.

The report on "Testkonzession und Messungen adaptive Antennen" dated 24.09.2020 brings together the results of measurements carried out in the summer of 2020 on two base stations equipped with 5G technology and computer simulations carried out to validate these measurements. Complementary simulations were used to visualise the exposure to non-ionising radiation (NIR) when the same antenna serves one or more users, taking into account the many possible configurations.

The supplementary report on "Testkonzession und Messungen adaptive Antennen Nachtrag" dated 8.2.2021 confirms the measurements and simulations of the first report and attests to the reliability of the power-lock function, which is used as an automatic mechanism to limit the transmission power of adaptive antennas to a mean value.

These two reports show that the method used to assess the exposure level generated by a conventional antenna cannot be applied in the same manner as it is to adaptive antennas. Indeed, this method of calculation clearly overestimates the real average exposure generated by adaptive antennas. The guidance on adaptive antennas therefore introduces a correction factor that ensures that both types of antenna are treated equally while guaranteeing compliance with the emission limit values specified in the Ordinance on Protection against Non-Ionising Radiation (ORNI, RS 814.710).

The results of the tests and measurements carried out by OFCOM made an important contribution to the development of guidance on adaptive antennas issued by the Federal Office for the Environment.

5G networks

5G networks mark a revolution in the world of mobile communications as they open the door to new application areas, in particular in relation to the Internet of Things (IoT), communications between machines (M2M), ultra-broadband applications, autonomous cars, etc…

Compared with the current 3G and 4G mobile communication technologies, 5G offers significant advantages, in particular for the development of new technologies.

The 3 application areas of 5G

The benefits of 5G

  • the reaction time (latency) of less than one millisecond is 30 to 50 times shorter than that of 4G,
  • the data transfer rate of 10 Gbit/s is 100 times greater than that of 4G,
  • the number of terminals which can be connected simultaneously is 100 times greater, allowing one million connected objects per km2.
Evolution from 4G to 5G applications

Stages for the rollout of 5G

  • November 2017: the Federal Council reserves the frequency bands (700MHz and 3.5 GHz) for mobile communications,
  • December 2017: an initial version of the standards for the 5G becomes available
  • during 2018: the first devices for 5G become available,
  • February 2019: the Communications Commission ComCom awards the new frequencies to the mobile communication operators, with the 3.5 GHz band as the initial band for the rollout of 5G,
  • during 2019: 5G starts in Switzerland.

The factsheet below provides an overview of the technology 5G.

Last modification 27.04.2021

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