Pascal Grieder has been Salt’s boss since 2018.
Ulrich Rotzingereconomic chief
Salt hoodies and T-shirts hang at the headquarters’ reception desk like memorabilia at a rap star’s merchandise stand. With the boss, everyone here is on first name terms. Since Pascal Grieder (45) has been in charge of the telecom provider, Salt (formerly Orange) has been able to shift up a gear again. However, he is not as relaxed as Grieder appears at the interview.
BLICK: Mr. Grieder, why is the expansion of the ultra-fast 5G network in Switzerland stalling? Salt is also behind schedule.
Pascal Grieder: We have a backlog of 3,200 requests for new antennas in Switzerland because the public objected to the construction. After all, as many applications can now be processed within a reasonable period of time as new objections are received.
Does Salt even have enough 5G users?
With our subscriptions, we do not differentiate between 4G and 5G. In Switzerland, there are now more than one million customers across all providers who have 5G-enabled devices and can benefit from significantly more bandwidth, i.e. more stable, faster connections with shorter response times.
Then everything is fine?
However, I cannot give the all-clear: Switzerland is in danger of falling behind in mobile communications if 5G does not continue quickly.
Is it so bad if the concerns of certain parts of the population are taken seriously?
I understand concerns and certain fears, but I cannot understand them in every case. The serious scientific studies are extremely clear in the statement that mobile phone radiation is largely harmless. If you don’t trust the facts, consider that 90 percent of the radiation we are exposed to comes from the cell phone itself.
Are you addressing the antenna opponents?
If I really want less exposure to radiation, then it doesn’t help to reduce the number of antennas, because then the mobile phones have to emit more to reach the next antenna. If you want less radiation, you should definitely support the 5G expansion instead of preventing it.
What do you mean?
I’ll give you an example: a 4G antenna irradiates the whole house. 5G mobile phone antennas are more efficient and lead to lower radiation values than conventional antennas because they locate and target the 5G-capable cell phones in the house very specifically.
Are you asking for support from the new UVEK director Albert Rösti?
In view of the clear facts, I would like politicians to take a clear position and better communicate the advantages of 5G.
Support is also needed to get you going with the fixed-line service, which only reaches a third of households.
This is because we rely exclusively on fiber optic partnerships for the fixed network and do not build our own network. Here the competition commission slowed down our partner Swisscom. Now the expansion starts again. We will be able to offer our product throughout Switzerland by 2025, supported by 5G solutions and fiber optics.
How much fiber coverage is nationally possible?
Today we have almost two million households across all providers. Another million will be added by 2025, and by 2030 a good four out of five million properties in Switzerland should have fiber optics.
Salt discontinued MMS a few days ago. Is SMS also on the verge of extinction?
The decline in SMS users is not as strong as with the so-called multimedia messaging service.
Why do you still need them if everyone uses Whatsapp, Threema and other messenger services anyway?
The SMS has an important, increasing importance for two-factor log-in, for example for personal accounts in online shops, e-banking or health insurance companies. You will receive a code via SMS that is required for authorization. That’s why today’s SMS doesn’t have an expiry date.
Do your three children all already have a mobile phone?
My children are between 10 and 14 years old. They all have an older model, we share the subscription costs. Nevertheless, they do not communicate with SMS, but primarily use Whatsapp and maybe Facetime because they can use it to send animated emojis.
As a Telekom boss, what age do you think is right to start using mobile phones?
For me, the timing is less important. The decisive factor is what the children use the device for. As a player for radio plays, it is excellent.
But that’s not the case for very few…
… that’s why I’ve tried to activate all the protection mechanisms that exist. But my children are very adept at bypassing them. So it’s a constant arm wrestling in enforcing my restrictions.
How long do your children spend on their cell phones every day?
I would say at least an hour.
How about your personal screen time?
About four hours a day. Communication dominates here, a small part is spent on consuming news.
Not only do we spend more time on our cell phones, we also spend more time with the same provider, even though it is considered overpriced. Why are so many people so lazy?
The change inertia is much greater in Switzerland than abroad. Not only for telecom companies, but also for banks, health insurance companies and other insurers. One reason could be that Switzerland is an island of prosperity, most people are doing well. This means that cost savings alone will not motivate the majority to switch. If the customer is reasonably satisfied, he is willing to pay twice as much or more.
Are Blick readers right to criticize telecom providers in Switzerland for milking their customers?
Compared to other countries, we are not overpriced at all, and we can also keep up with Swiss providers in terms of price for the combination offers.
My provider charges almost 120 francs per month for Internet, TV and landline. A proud price! And don’t come here with the best network coverage here in Switzerland.
Then switch to us, we are much cheaper. No one has done as much as we have to make prices slide. And by the way: The network coverage is actually excellent in this country. Salt has also improved significantly and now has a value of 99.9 percent coverage in mobile communications.
Swisscom and Sunrise/UPC practically form a duopoly. How does outsider Salt plan to grow here?
I wouldn’t speak of duopoly, because Salt is a respectable size. Today we have more than one and a half million customers, including more and more companies, and generate over one billion Swiss francs in sales every year. We are not the baby brother of Swisscom and Sunrise.
The telecom market is saturated. You can only grow if you buy something or take something away from others.
Don’t forget immigration and population growth. But of course, we also want to continue to gain market share. We have invested heavily in quality and service in recent years. This is now starting to pay off.
Does that mean specifically?
We will publish our results at the end of March. What I can say: We grew very nicely in terms of sales, profits and customers, and in the first three quarters mostly better than the industry average. The momentum swings in our direction.
You are not making any progress at all with the quota for women, which you publicly advocated two years ago.
Almost 30 percent of our more than 1,000 employees in Switzerland are women. That’s higher than the industry average, which is 17 percent.
But there is still only one woman on your nine-strong executive board.
direct hit. We definitely have too few women in management. Unfortunately. That’s something we can correct on next transfers.
Do you pay women and men the same wages?
Yes. We also had this confirmed by an independent company.
What do you think of the salary transparency that the first companies in Switzerland are showing?
I’ve been following that too, but to be honest, I’m not entirely clear on the benefits of making wages transparent.
Could you be perceived as a fair employer who exemplifies a culture of trust?
I hope that people will come to us because they appreciate our working environment and the company.
Then it remains a secret, what do you earn?
Correct. My wages are not in the public interest. Nor would I put family photos on our business website.