Geneva (AFP)

The arrival of 5G in Switzerland is provoking the ire of those who fear the effects of its electromagnetic radiation on health, pushing cantons to freeze the construction of antennas while a national event is being prepared.

After South Korea, Switzerland is one of the first countries in the world to have launched into 5G, this mobile infrastructure at the heart of a technological confrontation between the United States and China.

Far from this clash of titans, Swiss citizens are resisting their deployment, threatening to launch a referendum as it is possible to do in this country known for its system of direct democracy.

Everything seemed good for the 5G.

In February, Switzerland reached a milestone, with the allocation of mobile frequencies to three operators (Salt, Sunrise and Swisscom), generating revenues of nearly 380 million Swiss francs (350 million euros).

The main telephone operators then competed with TV spots and street displays to announce the arrival of the latest mobile technology in cities, countryside and even in mountain regions.

At the beginning of July, 334 transmitting stations for the 5G were thus in service, according to the federal authorities.

- Referendum -

After a strong start, the 5G is now facing a growing slump, especially in the French-speaking region of Switzerland.

Put under pressure by online petitions launched very often by citizens, several cantons have frozen the procedures for the construction of antennas, in the name of the precautionary principle, as in Geneva, Vaud, Friborg and Neuchâtel.

The frost, however, only relates to the construction of antennas, because the operators can convert without authorization a 4G antenna in 5G. Swisscom ensures that by the end of the year, it will have covered 90% of the population.

Federal authorities fear, however, that anti-5G grumbling is on the rise and warned that any "moratorium" - a more drastic step than the freezing of building permits and on which certain cantons must decide - could be attacked in court. .

But opponents of 5G do not lose hope: a demonstration is scheduled on 21 September in front of the seat of government in Bern and a referendum is preparing, said Coco Tache-Berther, Frequencia association.

"There are members of parliament who are on our side, and I think most citizens are with us," she told AFP.

In the eyes of 5G opponents, this mobile technology poses unprecedented risks, especially in terms of health and the environment. They are calling for a national moratorium and increased development of fiber optics.

Olivier Pahud, who manifests once a month in front of the UN against the 5G, admits that it has not yet been proved that the electromagnetic radiation causes cancers, but he says to suffer from electro-hypersensitivity, a pathology which is not recognized in all countries.

The very powerful Swiss Federation of Physicians (WFH) also calls for caution, saying that "as long as it is not scientifically proven that an increase in current radiation limit values ​​has no impact on health, we should give up to increase them ".

- Investigations -

In Geneva, it is a doctor, also cantonal deputy of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC, center), Daniel Buchs, who leads the battle.

"We expect a serious, independent study that shows that, yes or no, there is a risk of harm to the population of the 5G" to avoid a scandal as was the case with asbestos, he says, pointing out that the World Health Organization has launched a study.

At the WHO, a spokesman confirmed to AFP that the specialized agency of the United Nations "is currently conducting an assessment of health risks related to exposure to radiofrequency fields".

In Berne, a government-mandated group of experts is also investigating.

His report, which included "radiation risks in the short and medium term, particularly in the context of the introduction of 5G", was to be published before the summer, but was delayed "in view of the scale of the task, "according to the Federal Office for the Environment.

This delay has angered the anti-5G, for whom the government may have yielded to possible pressure.

© 2019 AFP