The government holds a positive/optimistic position towards 5G spectrum licences for commercial use and underlines the opportunities associated with it. Not only should 5G enable smoother downloads and streaming of entertainment content, but 5G is also considered as the basis for Industry 4.0, Internet of Things, self-driving cars, telemedicine and similar innovations.
However, medical concerns have been raised. 5G can unlikely be implemented in Switzerland without changing the current statutes on protection against radiation. The current maximum exposure limits set forth in the applicable statutes and regulations will most likely have to be lowered to introduce 5G. Medical professionals and associations point out health risks and demand that changes to current statutes should not take place. It is unclear what impact health-related considerations will have. The interest of the Swiss economy and the government in introducing 5G quickly and nationwide is strong and likely to prevail. At the same time, the government wants to and must adhere to the precautionary principle of environmental protection law. Changes to the statutes are officially planned.
So far, only the Ordinance on Protection from Non-ionising Radiation of 23 December 1999 (ONIR) has been slightly adapted, on 17 April 2019. In particular, the concept of "electric smog monitoring" has been introduced. It will be conducted by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and its purpose is to determine the exposure of the population in Switzerland to non-ionising radiation. Currently, the FOEN is in the process of clarifying the parameters for monitoring and organizing it. The first results are expected in 2021 at the earliest.
In September 2018, the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) set up the working group "Mobile Radio and Radiation" with the task of drawing up a report on the needs and risks of setting up 5G networks. The report was published at the end of November 2019 and suggests six accompanying measures for the expansion of the mobile network in particular:
- The enforcement ONIR is to be simplified and harmonized together with the cantons;
- The electric smog monitoring is to be further developed;
- Information to the general public on mobile radio and radiation is to be increased;
- Research into possible health effects is to be intensified;
- An environmental medical advice centre for nonionising radiation is to be created; and
- Within the framework of a new exchange platform "mobile radio of the future", discussions among stakeholders is to be continued and solutions sought.
The DETEC is now considering the proposed measures of the working group and deciding on the next course of action.