Bernradio - Swisscom maritime communication

From EPSA - European Public Sector Award


The Federal Office for National Economic Supply (FONES) is responsible for protecting Switzerland’s critical supply infrastructure, such as, for example, electricity, ICT and transportation. Roughly 90% of primary or semi-finished products bound for Switzerland have been transported across the sea, before they are reloaded in a harbour and forwarded to Switzerland. Switzerland is a flag state of 37 modern merchant ships run by six Swiss ship-owning companies. In times of crisis these vessels might be put into service for the import or export of goods to prevent the Swiss economy from suffering severe damage. Obviously, in such a situation, communication with the ships is of utmost importance. For over 60 years, communication between ship owners and their vessels relied on HF radio. In the late 1980s, however, the situation changed fundamentally with the emergence of satellite communication.

Satellite systems offer broader communication bandwidth and almost 100% coverage throughout the world. This is in contrast to HF technology, where ionospheric disturbances may hamper communication. As a consequence, in the nineties many commercially operated HF radio stations went bankrupt. Thus, it is no wonder that the Swiss HF radio station ‘Bernradio’ seemed to have come to an end. As a last resort, FONES approached Swisscom Broadcast (SBC). Rapidly, it became clear that only a strong joint effor could keep the HF radio station alive, whilst at the same time significantly reducing the operating costs. In order to achieve this objective, it was obvious that Swisscom Broadcast had to offer a bundle of commercial and competitive HF communication services. Evidently, the services should suit the needs of FONES, i.e. the merchant ships sailing under Swiss flag. Moreover, in order to boost revenue, the services should be attractive enough for the international maritime industry at large.

Linking up HF radio stations all over the world by the internet allows a vessel to source communication services from a nearby HF station, therewith rendering them available on a 24x7 basis all over the world. This technical innovation was improved by SBC, thanks to continuous feedback by Swiss ship-owning companies. Today, due to this technical innovation, BERNRADIO/GLN marketed under the label of Swisscom Maritime Communication, is successful on the market. As of March 2011 it seems likely that the Swiss Botschaftsfunk (another HF radio service maintained by the Federal Administration to secure communication with Swiss embassies in times of crisis) will purchase SBC products as well, transferring this successful technology from the maritime business to yet another area. In summary, close collaboration between public administration, Swisscom Broadcast and Swiss ship owning companies has led to a new product ‘Swisscom Maritime Communication’ that offers:

  • Crisis resistant (and satellite independent) communication services, connecting the Federal Administration and Swiss merchant vessels.
  • Largely reduced financial costs for the Federal Administration.
  • New business opportunities for a telecom company through successfully marketed services for the maritime business.
  • Future business opportunities due to the Botschaftsfunk and other companies with the need of robust communication services.
Award info
Award category: opening up the public sector
Award type: submission
Award year: 2011
Project type
Sector: Information society, technology, media and audiovisual
Type of activity:
Keywords: HF radio, maritime communication, Bernradio, ocean shipping, crisis communication, business continuity management
Short English description: The Federal Office for National Economic Supply (FONES) is responsible for protecting Switzerland’s critical supply infrastructure, such as, for example, electricity, ICT and transportation.
Further information
Organisation: Federal Office for National Economic Supply
Other applicants:
Level of government: national level
Size of organisation: 25-50
Number of people involved: 1-5
Country: Switzerland
EU membership: EU member
Language code: en
Start date:
End date:

Bernradio - Swisscom maritime communication (46.9422778, 7.4315392)
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