The rollout of fifth generation (5G) mobile technology is causing a stir across Switzerland.


Groups, such as the Association Romande Alerte and the Gigaherz Club, are protesting at the rollout of the new technology, claiming that it poses potential health risks. In addition, they argue that it isn’t needed because current networks are sufficient.

Elected officials have joined these groups and members of the public in resisting the installation of new 5G antennas.

This week the canton of Vaud announced it would temporarily freeze permits to install new 5G transmitters. The resolution calls for a ban on 5G transmitter installation at least until the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) has finished its study into the effects of the new technology.

5G uses higher frequencies and more bandwidth than 3G and 4G, enabling users to transfer more wireless data faster. Existing networks use frequencies between 700 MHz and 6 GHz and have transfer rates of 100Mbit per second. 5G operates on frequencies between 28 and 100 GHz, allowing it to operate at rates of up to 10Gbit per second, 1,000 times the rate of 4G.

However, these higher frequency 5G signals have a lower range so 5G small cell transmitters are typically no more than 250 metres apart. This means many more transmitters are required.

A group of scientists claim the radiation emitted from mobile transmitters may increase cancer risk, cellular stress, harmful free radicals, genetic damage, learning and memory deficits and neurological disorders in humans. A report published late last year contains evidence that male rats exposed to high levels of radio frequency radiation, like that used in 2G and 3G cell phones, developed cancerous heart tumors. The report also contained some evidence of tumors in the brain and adrenal gland of exposed male rats. One challenge researchers face is that it may take decades of exposure for cancers and other other effects to appear in humans.

Other Swiss cantons are following the developments in Vaud. A similar parliamentary motion has been put forward in Geneva and the parliament of Valais will discuss the issue when it next sits.

In February 2019, Switzerland’s Federal Communications Commission awarded 5G mobile radio frequencies to Salt, Sunrise and Swisscom, netting around CHF 380 million. The first 5G devices are expected to appear in Switzerland before the end of the year.

5G communication networks will underpin the Internet of Things (IoT), medical applications (eHealth), image processing applications (virtual reality, augmented reality) and self-driving vehicles.