2019 will be remembered as a year of change. It started with young people demonstrating, but concerns about the climate and the environment are now being discussed by society as a whole and have therefore found their way onto the political agenda. As Switzerland’s leading telecommunications and IT company, this is both a stimulus and a challenge for Swisscom. On the one hand, we see these developments as confirming our efforts to act responsibly towards the environment, people and society, which is something we have been doing with persistence and meticulousness for over 20 years. On the other hand, however, this newly awakened environmental awareness has also given rise to fears and scepticism about the technological progress that is being made in mobile communications. Swisscom takes these concerns about health and well-being seriously. We see it as our duty to enter into dialogue with the relevant stakeholders, to play an active part in research into new technologies, and to ensure transparency.
We are, however, convinced that technological progress will help to overcome and solve many of today’s challenges. Communication technologies and IT, together with state-of-the-art networks and infrastructures, are the key technologies of the future. Swisscom therefore invests around CHF 1.6 billion in network upgrades each year in Switzerland alone, which is fully in line with our vision of shaping the future in a networked world and making the opportunities this opens up available to everyone. It is, however, something we can only bring about if business and society agree on the path that should be taken and if the technologies employed are accepted. This is something we will need to work hard to achieve in the coming years.
What specifically have we achieved over the past calendar year?
- Focus on energy efficiency: Swisscom is devoting all of its efforts to further improving the energy efficiency of its networks, buildings and vehicles. It uses electricity from 100% renewable energies and is constantly working on improving the energy efficiency of its networks, e.g. through the use of more efficient cooling systems. It also promotes climate-friendly ICT applications for collaboration anywhere and at any time, for remote monitoring and optimisation of vehicles, machinery and buildings, and for more climate-friendly cities.
- Empowering people: Swisscom aims to exploit the opportunities and potential of technical networking. For many years, it has been committed to ensuring that users have the necessary skills to get the most out of the Internet, e.g. by offering courses for around 43,000 pupils, parents and teachers and ICT courses for senior citizens, all the while emphasising the accepted wisdom that communicating face to face will always remain the best form of communication.
- Infrastructure is the key: In 2019, Swisscom continued to push ahead with broadband expansion in Switzerland. Thanks to Swisscom, around 74% of all Swiss homes and offices are now connected to ultra-fast broadband, with speeds of more than 80 Mbps. Around 67% of all homes and offices enjoy connections with speeds of more than 100 Mbps. In the field of mobile telephony, the nationwide coverage of the 4G/LTE network extended to 99% of the Swiss population by the end of December. 97% of the population is able to surf the Internet at speeds of up to 300 Mbps, over 72% at speeds of up to 500 Mbps, and some 27% at speeds of 700 Mbps. In addition, Swisscom rolled out its 5G network and is one of the first providers worldwide to offer fully standardised 5G networks. Furthermore, we also supplied more than 280 Alpine businesses with electricity and fast Internet, and provided 4,900 schools with fast and secure Internet free of charge.
- Committed to dialogue: Swisscom is convinced that the new 5G mobile communications standard will become the cornerstone of mobile digitisation. However, 5G technology – in Switzerland in particular – also serves as a surface upon which fears about health, the right to control the use of personal data, security and jobs are projected, despite the fact that 5G is only a further development of the technology we are already familiar with. In specific terms, the fifth generation of mobile communications uses familiar frequencies and signal characteristics but more powerful antennas and software. In addition, 5G technology is several times more energy efficient per amount of data transported than previous generations and allows intelligent applications to make our society more sustainable, which makes 5G essential.
Should we have paid more attention to public sensibilities when announcing 5G in the public domain? The answer is crystal clear: Yes. For example, we failed to take the opportunity to inform the public of 5G’s unrivalled energy efficiency or its numerous applications when it comes to managing complex systems – and therefore of the opportunities it brings for climate protection. We have an obligation in this regard.
Swisscom remains committed to ensuring that people in our country can take advantage of the opportunities and prospects offered by digitisation in a simple and effective way. This is the guiding principle on which the timetable for our sustainability work up to 2025 is based. We want to help people, the environment and Switzerland as a whole progress conveniently, securely and profitably.
Head of Group Communications & Responsibility
Head of Sustainability