Community resistance slows 5G rollout

Swisscom and other providers have faced strong resistance in some communities in Switzerland to the installation of 5G networks. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

Swisscom is sticking to its goal of covering 90% of Switzerland with 5G mobile network by the end of the year despite slower-than-expected rollout. Further delays due to community pushback could threaten Switzerland’s mobile leadership position, the company warns.

This content was published on August 15, 2019 - 15:39

Switzerland’s largest telecom provider took the opportunity of its half-yearly results release on Thursday to offer a word of caution about more setbacks in the rollout of 5G network.

“If further delays occur, we run the risk of no longer being able to cope with the enormous growth in data,” Swisscom CEO Urs Schaeppi said in a press release.

He added that this could cause Switzerland to lose its leading position in the mobile communications business as higher data volumes deteriorate the mobile phone networks.

+ Read more about how Switzerland is developing 5G in the country

Swisscom along with the two other main providers Salt and Sunrise has faced strong community resistance to plans for 5G network expansion. One survey found that 54% of Swiss citizens believe 5G could be damaging to their health.

Antenna construction projects have run into petitions and political interference, resulting in some changes to licensing procedures. In May, a protest organized by the grassroots Stop5G movement attracted around 1,000 people in Bern.

The telecom providers have dismissed the health and safety fears, stating that the impact is the same as that of 3G and 4G.

Swisscom announced it would start launching 5G networks in mid-April. The majority state-owned company started developing 5G networks in 110 communities but halfway through the year, only 58 towns were operational.

In addition to Switzerland, the company aims to reach 90% 5G coverage in Italy by 2026. The company invested CHF196 million for the mobile radio frequencies for the 5G network in Switzerland in the first half of the year.

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