Swiss mobile operators swoop up 5G frequencies in government auction

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Swiss mobile operators swoop up 5G frequencies in government auction
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Three major mobile phone operators have purchased more than 380 million CHF of megahertz frequencies from the government with a view to rolling out 5G coverage.


The Swiss Federal Communications Commission (ComCom) has sold new mobile phone frequencies necessary to roll out 5G coverage to mobile phone operators Swisscom, Sunrise and Salt, paving the way for the fast-speed Internet network in Switzerland. 

Frequencies of various megahertz, units of electromagnetic wave frequency equal to one million hertz, were up for sale: 700MHz, 1,400 MHz and 3500 MHz. 

Swisscom bought by far the largest share, more than the combined amount purchased by it competitors, spending more than 195 million Swiss francs (CHF) – approximately €171 million on the frequencies needed to operate the controversy-ridden faster internet network. A total of 380 million CHF (€335 million) was purchased by the three companies, according to a statement published on Swiss government portal 

"Frequencies are a limited public good, for which an appropriate price must be paid according to the legal provisions in force. The goal of frequency allocation was not to generate as much revenue as possible, but to ensure efficient distribution of frequencies so as to ensure excellent mobile telephony coverage in Switzerland," reads the statement.

The attribution of the frequencies is of crucial importance for the digitization of Switzerland and forms part of the Federal Council's "Digital Switzerland" strategy, added the government.

"In addition to enabling high-performance mobile communication, in the future 5G will open the way to many new applications, for example in the Internet of Things (IoT), in the medical sector (eHealth), in image processing ( Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality) or even self-driving vehicles," added the statement. 

Four companies took part in the public auction for the frequency licences, which are valid for 15 years. Dense Air Ltd was the only company that opted not to buy any frequencies after participating in the auction. 

Five frequency blocks of 5 megahertz remain unsold in the 2600MHz and 1400MHz, 700MHz frequencies respectively. 

Major commercial implementations of the 5G network, which has been pioneered in the testing labs of the northern Finnish tech city of Oulu, are expected to hit the market this year. Researchers in Oulu are already working on a 6G network, according to a recent press release by the University of Oulu. 

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Scientists are cautioning that before rolling out 5G, research on human health effects urgently needs to be done first to ensure the public and environment are protected. A study by 41 scientists submitted to the UN argued that there is not sufficient research on whether 5G would emit radio frequencies that could be dangerous to humans or animals.

"5G will require the buildout of literally hundreds of thousands of new wireless antennas in neighborhoods, cities and town," states a study by the Environmental Health Trust. 

More than 180 scientists from 36 countries recently submitted an open letter to the European Union calling for a moratorium on 5G coverage in Europe until further studies into the health risks have been undertaken.

“We, the undersigned scientists, recommend a moratorium on the roll-out of the fifth generation, 5G, for telecommunication until potential hazards for human health and the environment have been fully investigated by scientists independent from industry. 5G will substantially increase exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) on top of the 2G, 3G, 4G, WiFi etc. for telecommunications already in place. RF-EMF has been proven to be harmful for humans and the environment," wrote the scientists in a statement on January 19th, 2019. 

One of the core concerns is the number of extra antennas that will needed – 5G can only transmit short distances – one reportedly every 10 to 12 metres.

Another health concern the experts highlight is due to machines that operate off wireless connections – the so-called Internet of Things (IOT).

These include refrigerators, washing machines, surveillance cameras, as well as self-driving cars and buses, and constitute 10 to 20 billion extra connections, according to the scientists.  The experts are urging the EU to follow Resolution 1815 of the Council of Europe, asking for an independent task force to reassess the health effects of 5G. 

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