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18 April 2019

Switzerland: Swisscom Deploys 5G and Creates Controversy

Betrayal by the president of the Geneva cantonal government which had voted a moratorium on 5G.  Betrayal by the Confederation.  Profit reigns over health.  The Swiss Confederation owns the majority of shares in Swisscom. No one is listening to the voice of the people.  Democracy has died.  

Swisscom deploys 5G and creates controversy
by Sami Zaïbi, ABO+, Tribune de Genève, 18 April 2019 - translation

Geneva: The operator is launching its 5G network in Geneva. Antonio Hodgers had nevertheless assured that the Canton would "not rush" this controversial technology

5G antennas in Geneva in operation
Swisscom has taken everyone by surprise. While a national debate is underway on the usefulness and health impacts of 5G, the Cantons of Geneva and Vaud have passed a moratorium on technology, and anti-5G collectives have formed, with great fanfare, the operator today launched its national 5G network, the first to cover major cities, including the City of Calvin. Sunrise had launched the technology in March in small towns and cities.

Political scam

Swisscom's announcement is particularly surprising in Geneva: last week, the President of the Council of State Antonio Hodgers made it clear that the technology would not be coming to the canton any time soon. While he urged the Grand Council to refer the moratorium on 5G (which was finally adopted by 58 votes to 28) to the committee, he had insisted on reassuring elected officials about the progress of the implementation of the technology: "In any case, we are not going to rush to install these antennas. It is a process that first requires public inquiries, all of which must be subject to a weighing of interests, particularly for health, development or heritage. We're certainly not going to rush, that's for sure. I don't have a request on my desk for a 5G antenna yet, to be very clear. When there are, we will treat them with due attention."

In practice, it was unlikely that the elected representative would receive such a request. Indeed, the Service de l'air, du bruit et des rayonnements non ionisants (SABRA), the body in charge of validating requests for antenna installations, is not in a position to know whether the files submitted to it concern 5G. "SABRA analyses operators' requests in the light of the parameters of the antennas they want to install, in particular their frequency, power or location. But we have no way of knowing what technology they will be dedicated to, whether it is for 3, 4 or 5G," explains Philippe Royer, director of SABRA. No file "for a 5G antenna" could have landed on the elected official's desk.

Standards respected

Asked at the Council of State press conference, Antonio Hodgers explained that his remarks last week concerned "millimeter waves", which 5G can potentially use, but which are currently prohibited by the Federal Ordinance on Protection against Non-Ionizing Radiation. The current 5G therefore does not present higher risks than the 4G and has not been the subject of a decision. "There was no political or administrative choice regarding 5G," summarized the head of the Territory Department. There is still the misunderstanding: the majority of elected officials understood that his reassuring remarks a week ago concerned 5G technology in general. As for the risks generated by these legal frequencies, "it is up to Bern to settle the issue," the magistrate points out.

Currently, 20 5G antennas are listed by the Federal Office of Communication (see [above]). These include modified 4G antennas and new specific antennas. At the moment, no compatible devices are available on the market. Without connected equipment, the antennas transmit at very low power. But Swisscom spokesman Christian Neuhaus maintains that the first 5G laptop from the Chinese brand Oppo will arrive in early May.

Swisscom criticized

The operator's willingness to launch the technology makes people react. "It's a mockery," says the doctor and MP Bertrand Buchs. All parties are concerned about this issue, and this company belonging to the Confederation does not take it into account." As for the Geneva Coordination of the 5G moratorium, we are surprised: we thought that the Council of State would respect the moratorium adopted last week.

Bern adapts the legal standards for the development of 5G

Timing or concerted operation? Yesterday, as Swisscom launched its 5G network (see above), the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) announced that it had adapted the legislation to allow the deployment of this new technology. The Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection Ordinance (NIRO) did not provide a limit value for mobile telephone antennas using the frequency of 1400 megahertz, one of three assigned to 5G in February. This has now been done. These standards, defined in volts per meter, are intended to protect the population from the thermal effects that cause body tissue warming or other effects.

The FOEN explains on its website that considerably stricter limit values than in most European countries have even been set for sensitive areas such as housing, schools, kindergartens, hospitals or permanent workplaces. On the other hand, antennas used intermittently, for example for military troop accommodation or festivals, are not subject to these standards.

The three frequencies allocated to 5G (700 MHz, 1400 MHz and 3500 MHz) are in fact already used for the broadcasting of terrestrial television programs, microphones and wireless cameras, digital DAB radio and satellite transmissions. In other words, and as Antonio Hodgers pointed out to the Grand Council, there is nothing very new about this. However, 5G is presented as a revolution, because it offers a data rate a hundred times higher than that of 4G and the number of terminals that can be connected at the same time is multiplied by a hundred, to reach one million objects connected per square kilometer. So if the waves remain the same as they are now, there will potentially be a hundred times more waves in the air.

In September, a working group was set up by the Confederation to analyze the needs of mobile telephony and radiation risks, particularly in relation to 5G. It is expected to submit its report by the summer. The FOEN points out that the rapid introduction of this technology is in line with the Federal Council's "Digital Switzerland" strategy. (TDG)

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