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26 April 2019

Switzerland: New Dispute Over Cell Phone Radiation: 5G Skeptics Bemoan Boytrick

This article clarifies the "tricks" being pulled by the Swiss federal government and telecoms regarding the 5G rollout.

New dispute over cell phone radiation: 5G skeptics bemoan boytrick
by Roger Braun - CH Media, basellandschaftlichezeitung.ch, 25 April 2019 - automatic translation

The Federal Council relaxed protection against mobile phone radiation through the back door, criticize antenna opponents.

Worker assembling a 5G antenna in Bern. Peter Klaunzer /
Keystone ©  Keystone
It's fast, the fifth-generation mobile network. In two seconds you can download a movie. But will 5G soon be available in Switzerland? Since the Council of States twice said no to the relaxation of radiation protection, the telecom providers see the expansion of the 5G network at risk. Currently, a working group is considering how the ultra-fast Internet can in future be distributed nationwide.

What is it about? State-of-the-art transmitters radiate differently than conventional antennas. They focus the increased performance specifically on the active mobile phone user, while the remaining environment of the antenna is significantly less strained. The Federal Council has therefore decided to create a special legal basis for these "adaptive antennas". If conventional antennas are not allowed to exceed the maximum limit for radiation protection at any time, adaptive antennas should take into account "the variability of the transmission directions and the antenna patterns", as stated in the regulation, which will apply from 1 June.

In concrete terms, the Federal Office for the Environment still has to regulate the cantons in an enforcement aid. It is clear that adaptive antennas with larger maximum radiation will be able to operate. Similar to the association "Strahlenschutz" (Protection against radiation), the physicians for environmental protection see a gateway for the weakening of radiation protection: Markus N. Durrer, who represents the environmental protection organization in the federal working group, speaks of a "boycott" of the Federal Council. He warns that the amendment to the ordinance paves the way for an increase in effective transmission power by a factor of 10 to 40.

Mistrust in Parliament too

Members of Parliament are also startled. "Here, the potential is created to significantly weaken radiation protection," says Zurich's SP National Councilor Thomas Hardegger. He fears that the Federal Office for the Environment will come under pressure to formulate a telecom-friendly enforcement aid. Incomprehensible for him is the timing of the decision. "I do not understand why the Federal Council is pushing ahead, before the working group presents its results in the summer," says Hardegger. For him, there is no hurry, the 5G technology in Switzerland is not yet even ready for use. The type of communication seems strange to him. "Shortly before Easter, packaged with five other regulations - this suggests that the Federal Council wanted to attract little attention," says Hardegger.

New measuring methods necessary

The situation is completely different for Peter Grütter, president of the association of telecom providers Asut. "This is not backdoor loosening, but the application of the precautionary principle to new antenna technology," he says. For him, it is logical that adaptive transmitters are treated differently than the conventional ones. "If antennas are no longer shining like watering cans, you have to measure the load differently," says Grütter. "It's about nothing more than finding an appropriate measurement methodology."

He considers the fears of the association "protection against radiation" excessive. The Federal Council has only decided that it needs new measurement methods for a new technology, he says. What that will be is the subject of discussions in the working group, which  also constitutes representatives of environmental and health organizations. "Complaining is inappropriate," says Grütter.

Original article in German:

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