Switzerland was among the first countries to begin deploying 5G, but health fears over radiation from the antennas that carry the next-generation mobile technology have sparked a nationwide revolt.
Demonstrators against the technology are due to fill the streets of Bern later this month, but already a number of cantons have been pressured to put planned constructions of 5g-compatible antennae on ice.
The technology has been swept up in the deepening trade war between China and the United States, which has tried to reign in Chinese giant Huawei, the world’s leader in superfast 5g equipment; over fears, it will allow Beijing to spy on communications from countries that use its products and services.
However, far from the clash of the titans, a growing number of Swiss are voicing alarm at possible health effects from exposure to the electromagnetic rays radiating from the new antennae, and are threatening to put the issue to a referendum in the country famous for its direct democratic system.
In February, Switzerland took a big step towards deployment when it attributed 5g frequencies to three major operators, Swisscom, sunrise and salt, allowing the country to rake in revenues of nearly 380 million Swiss francs ($384 million, 350 million euros).
There are already several studies underway, including one by the world health organization, which told AFP it, had begun “conducting a risk assessment of health outcomes from radiofrequency fields’ exposure.”
A group of experts was also appointed by the Swiss government last year to probe the risks involved with introducing 5g, and their findings should be published by the end of the year.