Swisscom mobile phone plan for kids under fire

A Swisscom campaign to lure children as young as six years old to sign up for a cell phone plan has come under attack from consumer advocates.

Swisscom mobile phone plan for kids under fire
Photo: Mehdi Fedouach/AFP

The ”easy start” plan from Switzerland’s largest telecom company is described as a prepaid package that offers free calls to parents and two other numbers, even if the phone runs out of credit.

“A natel (cell phone) has no place in the hands of a small child,” Mathieu Fleury, secretary general of FRC, a consumer’s group for French-speaking Switzerland, told 20 Minutes.

“I think to set an age of six (for phone plans) sends a wrong signal.”

Fleury said the “easy start” plan flies in the face of positive efforts Swisscom has made, such as offering a media course to advise parents on how to accompany their child when they first use the internet.

“Now they are going backwards.”

Swisscom spokesman Christian Neuhas defended the plan, saying it “responds to a real demand” from the public, 20 Minutes reported.

The telecom company notes that 40 percent of children in primary school already have a mobile phone, according to studies.

“Other parents want their children to be able to reach them at any time and so give them a mobile phone,” Swisscom says on the section of its English-language website explaining the “easy start" program.

Swisscom underlines the fact that the plan is prepaid so children cannot spend more than the credit provided.

Internet access can be blocked by text messages to screen out undesirable content.

“Content filters” and “app blocks” are also provided.

Swisscom offers downloadable brochures in addition to offering workshops to help parents accompany their children when they go online for the first time.

The company’s plan for small children follows a similar one introduced by Sunrise, another Swiss cell phone service provider, which is aimed at children nine and over.

Even that is too young for some experts.

Franz Eidenbenz, a specialist in technology dependence, believes children should not have a mobile phone before they are 12.

“Parents must absolutely limit their access to the internet,” Eidenbenz told 20 Minutes.

“Violent or pornographic content can be traumatic.”

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Is there a 5G antenna near you in Switzerland? A new map has the answer

More than 2,200 5G antennas are now deployed in Switzerland, a significant increase from the 102 mounted when the new mobile technology was rolled out in April 2019.

Is there a 5G antenna near you in Switzerland? A new map has the answer
One of the 5G antennae mounted in Switzerland. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Swiss TV station RTS has created an interactive map showing where the 5G antennas are located throughout the country. 

By moving the line on the map, a user can see the progression of the fifth-generation of cellular technology between June 2019, when only 280 antennas were rolled out, and the present time.

The map was created based on the data from the Federal Office of Communications.

The activation of 5G antennas is not uniform across the country, RTS said.

The largest number of transmitting stations are in big cities, led by Zurich (108), Bern (48), Winterthur (30) and Geneva (27). Some towns, like Yverdon-les-Bains, have none.

Currently, 1018 communes— 46 percent of the country’s municipalities ‑ have at least one 5G antenna.

As for the cantons, Bern, with 416 antennas and Zurich, with 375, are the most connected. Vaud (167) and Geneva (109)  have the most antennas in the French-speaking Switzerland.

Switzerland was among the first nations to begin deploying 5G, but this technology has been controversial here, as it has been in other countries as well.

Because of possible health risks associated with the radiation from the antennas, several cantons have not authorised them. However, operators Swisscom, Sunrise and Salt can still deploy the system by transforming 4G antennas, while respecting the same radiation limit values.

The rollout had sparked a nationwide revolt last year, when thousands have demonstrated in Bern against this technology.

More demonstrations against 5G are scheduled to take place on January 25th in Switzerland and other countries.

READ MORE: Why Switzerland has been ranked 'best country' in the world once again