PARTNER FEATURE: Switzerland-based Sunrise embarked on the path to deploying 5.5G, five years after launching 5G, looking to enhance its enterprise capabilities and thus enable it to customize its networks for every business case and better cater to customers’ diverse needs.

Speaking at Huawei’s 5G Beyond Growth Summit at MWC Barcelona 2024, Alexander Lehrmann, Senior Director of Innovation & Development at Sunrise, detailed the company’s 5G innovation journey.

The operator ended 2023 with 1.4 million 5G connections, up 40% year-on-year. In addition, nearly 30% of all Switzerland’s mobile traffic now runs on 5G networks. He noted it is pushing for the number to go higher as it’s more efficient for traffic to run on a 5G network.

The company has a diversified revenue mix, with mobile accounting for 41% of total sales of CHF3 billion, consumer fixed-line 38%, and B2B 19%.

The road to 5.5G
The operator was one of the first anywhere in the world to launch 5G services back in 2019. Its download speeds average 1.8 Gbps, while upload rates are 111 Mbps.

“We now have the capability to do POCs for two prototypes and to demo what it means to be fully on 5G.”

He also expressed his excitement about 5.5G and all the new features it will bring to the table, such as reduced capability (RedCap) and passive IoT, in addition to a tenfold improvement in coverage.

“There are so many use cases, in logistics, warehousing, and factories that we haven’t quite been able to reach with 5G. This is where 5.5G will come in and propel us into other areas.”

Personalized user experience, versatile business models, and scalable industrial applications are all key to success as customer demands continue to evolve. “To meet these demands, we must constantly evolve digital infrastructure. 5.5G has the potential to address these needs, and can help pave the way for the ongoing success of 5G.”

Mobile Private Network options
In regards to its existing 5G network, Lehrmann insisted that mobile private networks give it a huge advantage in terms of offering enterprises higher data rates, lower latency, and massive IoT connections. It also provides clients with three models for deploying these mobile private networks: a sliced public network, a dedicated private network and a hybrid of the two.

He noted that the company’s experience indicates enterprise customers want efficiency and a reduction in costs and risks, while growing their top line. Customers come to Sunrise with specific objectives, such as growing their business, reducing costs, changing their business models, or innovating.

Joint innovation
The operator tries to address these needs at the 5G Joint Innovation Hub created in collaboration with Huawei in Zurich by working across three key areas: use cases, technologies and the specific industry, he noted.

“Customers do want to know what they can get from 5G, particularly if you combine it with other emerging technologies like IoT, virtual reality, digital twins, and AI. They want to understand how IoT can be enhanced by deploying AI, and how 5G propels IoT.”

Lehrmann explained how the 5G Joint Innovation Hub helps customers and other partners understand 5G technology by demonstrating its capabilities. “The 5G Joint Innovation Hub has become a driver for us that not only works on sales enablement and pushes critical projects forward, but also imbues our brand with an innovative spirit.”

One of its more recent achievements is a proof-of-concept demo of an autonomous retail store with no staff, enabling Sunrise customers to pick up products and walk out of the shop, being charged automatically. This Grab-and-Go concept store is equipped with a hybrid private mobile network, which delivers less than 20 ms latency between in-shore cameras and the app server, alongside guaranteed upload bandwidth.

Another innovation is a 5G livestreaming broadcast package that uses a private mobile network slice on the public network. This set up significantly reduces costs and makes it more convenient for camera operators by eliminating the need for cables and heavy satellite equipment. Only a camera and a SIM card are required.

At the end of last year, Sunrise trialled a sub-6GHz prototype at the 5G Joint Innovation Hub, achieving a peak download speed of 10 Gbps.