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22 February 2019

The End of Euphoria: In Switzerland, There is Already Frustration over 5G Expansion

The end of euphoria - In Switzerland, there is already frustration over 5G expansion
By Jan Dirk Herbermann, general-anzeiger-bonn.de, 14 February 2019 - translation

A 5G antenna is on a test site near Neuss.  
Photo: picture alliance / dpa
GENEVA. 5G networks are considered a new milestone in data transmission. While there is still some discussion in Germany, frustration is already on the rise in Switzerland.

Shortly after the auction, the Swiss mobile operators spread euphoria. The auction of the frequencies for the new standard 5G in the Alpine country had proceeded smoothly, the providers had paid 380 million francs to the state for the 15-year concessions. The smallest of the vendors, Salt, assured its customers it would "provide 5G coverage with next-generation speeds, latencies, and capacity as of the third quarter of this year".

Number two, Sunrise, pledged to "provide a nationwide, world-class 5G network in the future." And the industry leader Swisscom vowed to "put 5G live as soon as possible" and to make it available in 60 locations by the end of 2019. But just under a week after the auction, which was also praised in Switzerland's neighboring countries as an example, the Swiss providers row back.

None of the three companies wants to predict when exactly the real-time telephony will be available nationwide. The promises of the 5G world, from successes in medicine to self-driving cars, move into the distance. "A rapid introduction of efficient and area-wide 5G networks is "practically impossible" under the current framework conditions, Sunrise even clarifies at the request of this newspaper. Similar pessimistic tones can be heard from Swisscom. The third in the league, Salt, did not answer.

Christian Grasser, Managing Director of the Swiss Association of Telecommunications, ensured that the atmosphere of optimism staged by the media came to an end. Around two thirds of all existing mobile radio antennas in Switzerland and far more than 90 percent of all installations in the cities had reached the limits of the permitted performance. Grasser told the NZZ am Sonntag that they therefore did not have the provisions to use 5G efficiently.

The result: "Under existing regulations, it is expected that mobile operators would have to create over 15,000 new mobile sites to achieve coverage comparable to 4G or 5G-typical features," Sunrise said. Years could pass before the new antennas go into operation.

Currently, there are almost 19,000 installations in Switzerland. These facilities are not allowed to increase their transmission power any further - the extremely restrictive Swiss regulations on radiation protection are in the way. Mobile phone providers are particularly harsh in their criticism of the so-called installation limit values - a special feature. "The limit values in Switzerland are stricter by a factor of 10 than those in most European countries and the recommendations of the World Health Organization," says Swisscom.

In fact, the Swiss regulations for protection against electrosmog belong to the "strictest regulations in the world", as emf-info notes. The Information Service writes about the Confederation's Environmental Protection Act, which is the basis for the regulation: "This law requires the precautionary limitation of emissions, inter alia, if there is a suspicion of a health hazard, even if this danger has not been scientifically proven."

For years, mobile operators have been pushing for regulations to be relaxed. In particular, the second chamber of parliament in Bern, the Council of States, insists on strict rules to keep health risks to the population as low as possible.

But not only the strict protection rules slow down the construction of a 5G network in the Confederation. Also the mountainous and often impassable terrain as well as the lengthy approval procedures make things difficult for the providers. And many citizens resist.  "Around one third of our mobile telephony antenna installation applications, new buildings and conversions are subject to objections," Swisscom reports.

The opponents of the antennas are characterized by obstinacy, such as in the Zurich district of Enge. First, residents petitioned the city council to thwart an installation in their residential area. That failed. Now citizens want to move to the Swiss Federal Court, an idea that causes headaches among mobile operators. If the Swiss Supreme Court decides in favor of the residents, this could set a precedent and negatively affect other projects.

Original article in German:

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