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Mobile telephony and health

Mobile telephony - masts, environment and health

Use of our mobile network is sharply increasing as the volume of data traffic doubles every year. However expanding network capacity to cover this demand is a major challenge. People harbour reservations about mobile communication masts due to potential health risks, while rigorous limit values, outdated assessment methods and building regulations hamper and increase the cost of network expansion. Without an efficient mobile infrastructure we risk missing the digitisation boat.

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Outlook

We foster technical innovations in network expansion and advocate modern regulations to ensure that our network stays abreast of the rapid growth in usage.

Microcells

In busy areas of cities we use microcells in cable ducts. They are run on low power and supply the necessary capacity as required.

Modernisation

Thanks to new technologies, mast efficiency is improving. For instance, 4G uses the radio spectrum around 30 times more efficiently than 2G, and 5G is set to top even this capacity by far.

Threshold limits

We advocate a moderate relaxing of the 1999 installation threshold values from 6 to 20 volts per metre. This is still three times lower than the precautionary WHO and EU recommendations.

Assessment methods

We propose an improvement in assessment methods in line with international standards based on a temporal and spatial averaging calculation instead of the maximum value calculation used currently.

Low Power Network

Complementing the mobile network, Swisscom has built up a nationwide Low Power Network for applications with low volumes of data traffic such as sensor networking.

Network expansion

Switzerland requires a thousand new masts in the upcoming years to stay abreast of growing usage.

Frequently asked questions

We answer questions that we are often asked here. We have anonymised and abridged the questions for privacy protection and legibility, while keeping the original phrasing as far as possible. Do you have any questions? Please write to us.



You are blanketing Switzerland in electrosmog. Can you prove that it is not a hazard?



How can I make calls on my mobile without fully exposing myself to its electrosmog?



We've been arguing for decades about whether mobile communication is dangerous or not. You say no, but you're biased. People affected by electrosmog say yes, but they could be mistaken. So who can we trust?



I am affected by the electrosmog from your mobile masts (sleeplessness, lack of concentration, depression). What should I do?



I don't have any health problems as such caused by electrosmog, but I would like to know what causes the most electrosmog in my home?



I'm disappointed in Swisscom. How can you act sustainably on the one hand (in terms of energy consumption), yet on the other advocate easing up limits for mobile masts?



Your lobby keeps repeating the same mantra that mobile electrosmog isn't dangerous. That's exactly how it was for asbestos.



Where there's smoke, there's fire. Studies repeatedly indicate the hazards of electrosmog from mobile communications.



Now you want to introduce the new 5G technology. Shouldn't this technology be researched first to see if it is harmful?



According to the "Mobilfunk" cancer research agency, mobile communications induce cancer. What do you say to that?

Glossary

Facts & Figures

IARC

In 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer IARC classified electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans. Pickled vegetables are also classified at this level. So IARC classification does not mean that a carcinogenic effect has been verified. On the contrary, it shows that indications of a carcinogenic effect in animal, cell and epidemiological studies are limited.

ICNIRP

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection analyses scientific studies in this area and recommends threshold values to protect humans from health hazards based on the resultant scientific findings. ONIR threshold values are ten times stricter than those recommended by the ICNIRP and WHO.

ONIR

In the Ordinance relating to Protection from Non-Ionising Radiation, Switzerland sets the threshold values for maximum permissible electric, magnetic and electromagnetic radiation of stationary installations in the frequency range from 0 Hz to 300 GHz. A two-level protection concept was applied in this case. All accessible places must comply with the emission threshold limit recommended by the WHO. In order to satisfy the precautionary principle required by the federal law for the protection of the environment, based on technical feasibility and economic viability, ten times stricter values were set for intensively frequented places occupied by persons for prolonged periods.

EMF

EMF generally refers to electromagnetic fields below optical wavelengths, thus non-ionising radiation which is used to transmit signals in mobile and radio communication.

SAR

The radio waves of a mobile phone are absorbed to some extent by the human body and transformed into heat. The energy absorbed by the body is expressed in watts per kilogram of body tissue and as the specific absorption rate SAR. In Switzerland the applicable SAR threshold value for mobile phones is 2 watts per kg (on the head).

V/m

Volt per metre is the unit of measurement for the strength of electric fields.

Place of sensitive use

The ONIR sets the installation threshold values for places of sensitive use. They are ten times stricter than the generally applicable threshold values (known as exposure limit values). In international terms, this is a special regulation particular to Switzerland. Places of sensitive use are usually inside buildings and include apartments, classrooms, nursery schools, patients' rooms in hospitals and care homes, constantly occupied workplaces. Outside buildings they include playgrounds, school and nursery school recreational areas in particular.

WHO

Currently, based on an analysis of all relevant studies, the World Health Organisation deems that mobile communication mast and wireless network emissions do not to represent a health hazard.

Radiation

Radiation is a form of energy which is transmitted as electromagnetic waves. A distinction is made between ionising and non-ionising radiation. Ionising radiation can change the elements of material such as molecules or atoms, while non-ionising radiation contains too little energy to do so. Non-ionising radiation cannot therefore change atoms or molecules.

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity

People whose health or well-being is impaired and who attribute their condition to electromagnetic fields in their daily lives are described as being electrosensitive. As yet no recognised medical diagnostic criteria exist. To date, it has not been possible to prove by scientific methods that the complaints of electrosensitive persons are caused by the effects of electromagnetic fields in daily life.

Do you have any questions?

Jürg Studerus, mobile communication and health expert