Switzerland’s regions struggled to see a good 5G signal strength on the 3.5 GHz band

Earlier this year, Opensignal analyzed 5G signal strength in Switzerland and benchmarked it against other European markets. Due to restrictive regulations on mobile network electromagnetic emissions (EMF), Switzerland had a much weaker 5G signal strength than other European markets — Germany, France and Italy. As our data demonstrated, there is a link between 5G signal strength and 5G mobile network experience. Average 5G download speeds slowed significantly with lower power levels, making it hard for operators to fully realize the potential of 5G networks. 

In this follow-up piece, Opensignal looked at 5G signal strength across Switzerland, across both the 700 MHz and 3.5 GHz bands. Our analysis shows that our users on each operator saw the strongest 5G signal strength on the 700 MHz band and the weakest on the 3.5 GHz band. While there were small differences in distributions of 5G readings by signal strength categories between operators, we observed more significant differences between Switzerland’s regions.

Opensignal compared average Synchronization Signal Reference Signal Received Power (SS RSRP) values — the measure of 5G signal strength — across all three Swiss operators. Salt scored -101.3 dBm, which means a stronger 5G signal on its network experienced by our users than on Sunrise and Swisscom’s networks — as Salt’s score was 4.2 and 3.3 dBm better than its competitors’, respectively. Salt and Swisscom placed in the Fair (-105 dBm to -95 dBm) category, while Sunrise’s 5G signal strength rated as Weak (-115 dBm to -105 dBm). 

A higher proportion of 5G readings using the 700 MHz band contributed to Salt’s better average 5G signal strength — a third of all readings in total. Compared to Salt’s 65.9% of readings using the 3.5 GHz band, our users on other Swiss operators observed a much higher share on this band — 83% on Swisscom and 94.9% on Sunrise. We observed less than 1% of 5G readings using the 700 MHz band on Sunrise’s network.

Looking at the 3.5 GHz band alone, all of Switzerland’s operators scored -105 dBm or lower, with Swisscom users seeing levels 1.7 dBm behind Sunrise users. These results were on the border between the Weak and Fair categories. Looking across seven regions of Switzerland, SS RSRP values ranged from -107.1 dBm in Ticino to -104.7 dBm in Lake Geneva and Zurich.

Opensignal compared the distribution of 5G readings by signal strength categories between all three Switzerland’s national operators. Looking at the 3.5 GHz band, Sunrise had the highest proportion of users’ readings with Excellent  -85 dBm or above) 5G signal strength — 5.3%, 0.4 percentage points ahead of Swisscom users’ 4.8%. While Salt was behind its competitors with only 2.1% of user readings with Excellent 5G signal strength, it had a higher proportion of Good or better 5G readings (23.2%) than both Sunrise (19.4%) and Swisscom (18.9%).

By contrast, Swisscom users saw the highest proportion of readings with Very Weak or worse 5G signal strength among all Swiss operators — 22.2%. This was substantially more than Salt users (15.7%) or Sunrise users (17.7%) observed.

Looking at the 700 MHz band, Salt and Swisscom had a higher proportion of Good or better 5G readings than in the case of 3.5 GHz band — 46.6% and 30%, respectively. The proportion of readings with Very Weak or worse 5G signal was also much lower for the 700 MHz band than for the 3.5 GHz band — only 1.7% for Salt and 6.2% for Swisscom.

Turning to the comparison between seven of Switzerland’s regions in terms of 3.5 GHz band, Zurich had the highest proportion of readings with Excellent 5G signal strength, of 8.2%, ahead of 4.6% we observed in Lake Geneva. Zurich had also the highest proportion of Good or better 5G readings (25.9%), ahead of Lake Geneva (19.9%) and Central Switzerland (18.4%). Zurich was also the only region in Switzerland which had less than a half of 5G readings with Weak or worse signal (45.3%), while all of the others exceeded the 50% mark.

Meanwhile, Ticono observed the highest proportion of readings with Very Weak or worse 5G signal strength across all regions in Switzerland — 22.9%. Espace Mittelland (21.8%) and Northwestern Switzerland (20.7%) were close behind, also with more than 20% of their 5G readings rated as Very Weak or worse. However, Espace Mittelland was the region with the highest proportion of 5G readings with the lowest signal strength category, Dead Zone (below -120 dBm) — nearly 10% of readings.

In terms of the 700 MHz band, Northwestern Switzerland and Zurich had the highest proportion of 5G readings rated as Good or better — 46.2% and 45.7% respectively. Zurich also observed the highest proportion of readings with Very Weak or worse 5G signal strength across all regions in Switzerland — 6.7%. Within this category, Eastern Switzerland had the highest proportion of 5G readings with Dead Zone — 3.4%.

As our data showed in our previous insights covering 5G signal strength across European and East Asian markets, 5G download speeds strongly rely on 5G signal strength. In Switzerland, due to restrictive regulations on mobile network power levels, we observed Weak or worse 5G signal strength in more than 50% of readings on the 3.5 GHz band in all Swiss regions save for Zurich — with some areas, like Ticino, hitting nearly 60%. This hampers the 5G experience of our users, especially in rural areas, and forces mobile operators to offset the effect of tight EMF regulations with extensive roll-outs of cell sites.