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Telecoms operators link up with European market

The Swiss are heavy users of mobile phones, with over five million subscribers Keystone

Switzerland’s second-biggest telecommunications company, Sunrise, has joined forces with eight other mobile operators to offer pan-European services.

This content was published on October 1, 2003 - 12:19

The new alliance, which covers 40 million subscribers, follows earlier European tie-ups involving local competitors Swisscom and Orange.

Sunrise and its partners in Spain, Germany, Britain, Ireland, Austria, Hungary, Norway and Italy plan initially to offer extended voice and data services to their customers across Europe.

In a second phase, the alliance will offer new products and cross-border services.

“We have to anticipate the needs of our customers, especially our business clients, who are more and more mobile,” said Sunrise spokesman Mathieu Janin.

The alliance will provide network coverage in countries where its operators are based, but expects to extend service areas to other regions in the future.

Advantages for customers

Sunrise says the agreement signed on Tuesday in Munich will give its customers advantages over other mobile phone users whose operators are not part of an alliance.

“A client will be able to reload his prepaid card abroad, or check his voicemail from a foreign location,” Janin told swissinfo. “We don’t want our Swiss customers to notice they have crossed the border.”

Switzerland’s largest telecoms company, Swisscom, signed an alliance with Britain’s Vodafone three years ago. The British firm owns 25 per cent of the Swiss operator’s mobile division.

Swisscom spokesman Christian Neuhaus said Sunrise’s decision to join an alliance was not really surprising.

“They are facing the same problem we had,” he told swissinfo. “They are too small to make a place for themselves in Europe alone, so they had to look for outside help.”

Sunrise’s promise of new cross-border services for mobile phones may also be some way off, according to Neuhaus.

“Customers will only see big changes once the third-generation of mobile phones comes on the market,” he said.

Alliance benefits

The immediate benefit for Sunrise will probably be in savings generated from joining the alliance. Swisscom says it has cut costs simply through bulk purchases with its own partners.

The new alliance comes two months after four other operators, including France’s Orange and Germany’s T-Mobile announced they were joining forces.

Sunrise’s Janin says that the fate of the three alliances will be decided by customers.

“We can’t exactly say what advantages clients will get from using our services yet, because it will take some time to get things up and running,” he told swissinfo.

Sunrise, which is owned by the Danish telephone company, TDC, has been operating on the Swiss market for six years and employs 2,500 people.

Its mobile phone division earned SFr245 million ($186 million) in the second quarter of 2003, with almost 1.2 million subscribers.

swissinfo, Scott Capper

Key facts

Mobile subscribers in Switzerland: 5.5 million.
Swisscom market share: 63 per cent.
Sunrise share: 20 per cent.
Orange: 17 per cent.

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