top of page

5G: How It Works and How to Activate It [Complete Guide]

5G Svizzera.png

5G technology is rapidly becoming the new standard in the global telecommunications market. With its progressive development in private, commercial, and industrial sectors, 5G is transforming the digital society around us, enabling new service models that are significantly enhancing our economic and social lives.


The evolution of 5G networks is swiftly advancing, making it crucial to understand how it works and how to use it in our daily lives to reap the benefits promised by operators.


In this guide, we'll explore the main features of 5G, how to use it on our smartphones, and the real impact on human health.


If you're looking for a Swiss mobile subscription that includes 5G in Switzerland, you can find the most affordable options on the comparison tool.

Compare 5G Plans

Features of 5G


5G represents a significant leap forward compared to previous generations of mobile networks. Utilizing higher frequency bands, 5G achieves exponential scalability through three main aspects, enabling new services in the digital society.


The three main features of 5G are:

  • Ultra-Low Latency: 5G connections have latency below 30 milliseconds, and in laboratory conditions, latency can be reduced to less than 10 ms. This enables real-time remote control of moving connected objects such as drones and robots.

  • Ultra-Wide Bandwidth: 5G connections can achieve maximum download speeds of 20 Gbps and upload speeds of 10 Gbps. This means that, compared to 4G, browsing can be up to 100 times faster, and in some cases, download speeds can rival fiber optics, allowing for fast internet connections even in areas without fiber coverage.

  • Massive Connectivity: 5G antennas can handle up to one million connections per km², supporting the development of future smart cities and reducing the number of antennas needed to manage network traffic.

Differences Between 4G and 5G

The differences between 4G and 5G become evident when browsing on our smartphones: 5G allows pages to load faster and files to download at significantly higher speeds, while data consumption increases, making an unlimited data plan advantageous. Additionally, battery consumption might be higher compared to the past.


These differences are related to the frequency types used: 5G bands are higher than those of 4G (moving from MHz to GHz waves). This increases the density of antennas (or base stations) but reduces the power emitted by each, consequently decreasing the size of each mobile network cell. For this reason, 5G can be considered more sustainable than 4G as it consumes less electricity to power the network.

Switch to a 5G Plan and Surf Ultrafast!

How to Use 5G

To fully leverage 5G features, the following requirements must be met:

  • Compatible Smartphone: The mobile phone must be of the latest generation with an antenna capable of receiving 5G frequencies.

  • Compatible SIM: Not all SIM cards are compatible with 5G. Older 64K or 128K SIM cards do not support the new generation mobile network, so it is necessary to request a replacement from your operator.

  • Network Coverage: To connect to the 5G network, you must be in a covered area.

  • 5G Operator: To use 5G, you need an operator that offers a 5G connection to its subscribers and has this tariff active in your phone plan.


Let's delve into each requirement to use 5G for browsing and calling.

5G-Compatible Smartphones

The latest smartphone models are generally ready to access the 5G network. However, it is always advisable to check the technical specifications of the chosen phone before purchasing.

The main 5G smartphones include:

  • Apple iPhone: 15, 15 Plus, 15 Pro, 15 Prom Max, 14 Pro, 14 Pro Max, 14 Plus, 14, 13 Promo Max, 13 Pro, 12, 13 mini, SE, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max, 12, 12 mini

  • Samsung Galaxy: S23, S23 Plus, S23 Ultra, A34, A54

  • Google Pixel: 8, 8 Pro, 7, 7a

  • Motorola: Edge 40, G53, G73

  • Xiaomi: 12T, 12 Liter, Redmi Note 10, Redmi Note 13

How to Activate 5G

Activating the 5G network on your device depends on the mobile phone. Unlike the transition from 3G to 4G, the compatibility of operators' chips is now greater, and enabling the network connection involves following simple instructions based on your smartphone's operating system.


For an Android smartphone, open the Settings menu > Connections > Mobile Network > Select Band and ensure it is set to 5G/LTE/3G/2G (auto connect).


If you have an iPhone, go to Settings > Mobile Data > Mobile Data Options > Voice and Data and ensure the 5G Auto or 5G On option is selected. With 5G Auto, the iPhone will activate this connection whenever it is available, enhancing the network experience compared to 4G while preserving battery life. With the 5G On option, the network will always use 5G if available.

5G Deployment in Switzerland and Europe

As early as 2019, Switzerland was the leading country globally in terms of connected cities, with over 220 locations covered compared to a few in Central European states. According to Ookla's 2023 report, Switzerland's 5G availability percentage increased from 33% at the beginning of 2022 to 54.9% the following year. This achievement ranks Switzerland first in 5G network coverage ahead of the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Germany. However, it appears that Swiss operators are sacrificing actual network speed (limiting it by default in their subscriptions) to avoid network congestion and ensure broader coverage for all citizens.


To check the current distribution of 5G antennas, the federal government website provides an automatically updated map showing the actual placement of each antenna installed in Switzerland.

Use desktop version for optimal visualisation

If you want to know the current mobile network coverage in Switzerland, you can do so by navigating to the dedicated section on our website and clicking on the Map.

5G-Enabled Operators in Switzerland

To fully utilize the potential of 5G, users need a subscription that includes 5G reception. Currently, most operators have 5G enabled and included for free in standard plans. However, some operators limit the maximum usable speed, while others allow usage only by subscribing to an additional 5G option.

Here is a summary of Swiss 5G mobile operators:


If you want to compare the different 5G offers from operators, you can do it in one click by going to the comparison section of

Compare 5G Plans

Is 5G Harmful to Health?

In recent years, with the progressive spread of 5G networks and the installation of antennas throughout the territory, the unscientifically proven belief has spread that the frequencies used by these repeaters are harmful to human health and linked to the spread of COVID-19. Fake news sites often claim that 5G is harmful to human health in both the short and long term.


In reality, these fears are entirely unfounded: the emission of electromagnetic waves (including those from 5G frequencies) is strictly limited and controlled by international guidelines and national oversight bodies.


In Switzerland, the development of 5G networks is managed by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), and the Federal Communications Commission (OFCOM). These federal bodies ensure compliance with laws and allocate frequencies and operational licenses to telecommunications operators.


Which Operators Manage the 5G Network in Switzerland?

The 5G mobile network in Switzerland is managed by Swisscom, Sunrise, and Salt. Each operator manages its network of antennas throughout the territory and is progressively expanding its coverage to reach 100% of the population by 2025.

How Much Does a 5G Subscription Cost?

A 5G subscription in Switzerland can cost less than 15 CHF per month. The cost depends on the GB included in the tariff and the selected operator. Unlimited 5G subscriptions are available for around 20 CHF/month.

How Many 5G Antennas Are There in Switzerland?

As of May 2024, there are 10,653 5G antennas spread across various cantons and cities in Switzerland.

What Studies Demonstrate the Effects of 5G on Human Health?

In 2022, the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) issued a call for research projects to study the medium-term effects of non-ionizing 5G radiation on human health. Currently, seven multi-year research projects are underway, with results expected between 2025 and 2026.

Stay Informed and Save on 5G Subscriptions

Now that you have the knowledge to decide whether to activate a 5G subscription and which one to choose, select a product from the options below and start saving today:

Additional Resources on Our Website

  • Guides: Informative guides on

  • Magazine: All articles, news, and advice from the editorial team

  • Glossary: Discover definitions and common terms in the telecommunications world

  • Mobile Coverage Map: Check the extent of mobile networks in Switzerland with this interactive map

Do you find it useful?

Author: Lapo Zarina

Publication: May 2024

Sources: Federal websites, Federal Communications Commission (OFCOM), Ookla Speedtest 5G report, 5G Observatory POLIMI | Images WIX or proprietary

bottom of page