5G triggers big fears

Thu, 27. Jun. 2019

There’s one topic currently causing major concern in Switzerland: The new 5G mobile network. This controversial communication technology is also finding its way into the Saanenland.

The expansion of 5G is starting to polarise. Opponents claim that the frequencies are harmful to health and responsible for stress and cancer. Also, they claim they can trigger the death of bees. Fears have grown to such a level that a moratorium on the expansion of 5G has been obtained in the cantons of Geneva, Vaud and Jura. Meanwhile, the Federal Offices for the Environment (Bafu) and Communications (Bakom) have asked the cantonal and local parliaments to stop their proceedings. They justify this by asserting that radiation protection is an issue for national government and that the moratoria exceed the authority of the municipalities and cantons. Proponents argue that frequency bands already in use for 3G and 4G will be used for the new 5G network.

The Lauenen population is worried
Some Lauenen citizens are drawing people’s attention to the potential harmful effects of 5G. Jörg Trachsel, mayor of Lauenen, can understand these fears. “Radiation is by no means harmless.” There’s a great balance to strike to continue using today’s technology. The topic of 5G hasn’t yet been discussed by the local council. “As this isn’t a community matter, our hands are tied,” he adds.

Radiation protection is a matter for central government
The State argues that radiation protection is regulated at national government level and the allocation of frequencies is also part of this. The situation is different for the physical development and expansion of antennas as these are areas authorised by the municipalities.

A Swisscom application for construction was published in the Amtsanzeiger on 5 March and was about converting the existing antennas on the Allmistrasse in Saanen. The communications giant plans to replace these antennas. The local neighbourhood has raised two objections, says Michael Herrmann of the building inspectorate when asked about this matter. Opponents are expressing their fears about 5G emissions.

When asked to comment, Swisscom said: “Our building applications are neutral in terms of technology and it’s the frequency that counts, not the generation of mobile communications.” This means that the expansion isn’t necessarily related to 5G and various frequencies can be transmitted even using the existing antennas. The communication company is trying to take the heat out of the situation: “Emission limits are just as strict for any generation they apply to.”

Swisscom justifies their position through studies
Swisscom explains that the frequency bands used for 5G have already been used for 3G, 4G and external transmissions by the SRG. These frequencies have been well researched, with several thousand studies over the last 40 years. None of these studies has revealed scientific evidence of damage from antenna installations while complying with international limits.

Swisscom attaches particular importance to these limits: “Today, the limits for Switzerland are ten times more stringent than in most European countries.” The telecom giant claims that 5G is using existing locations in its current expansion programme. They point out: “With the strict NISV rules in force, the industry will need significantly more antennas to utilise the full potential of 5G.” Just how many there would be in the Saanen region isn’t predictable at the moment. This means that based on the current levels of development, the technology cannot be used. Either locations need to be massively extended or limits need to be increased by the Federal Council. In both scenarios, it will be a hard job to overcome the will of the general public.

Based on AvS/Blanca Burri
Translated by Justine Hewson


Important questions about 5G

Why do we need 5G?
Current mobile communication technology is reaching its limits. In Switzerland, the mobile data stream is doubling every year. Therefore, the 5th generation of mobile communication technology needs to be introduced. In addition, 5G is essential for the Internet of Things, like driverless cars.

When is 5G coming?
Now! It is already installed in more than 150 places throughout Switzerland.

When will 5G reach the mountains?
Swisscom is planning the network from the autumn of 2019.

Can 5G already be used?
No. 5G-compatible devices will be released later this year.

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