A new federal website on mobile communications and 5G provides answers to important questions in the areas of radiation, technology and health. It is a joint project of the Federal Offices for the Environment (FOEN), Public Health (FOPH) and Communications (OFCOM).
www.5G-info.ch The website is available in German, French and Italian.
FAQ from OFCOM
The FAQ offer additional information on 5G in the sections technology, antennas, frequency allocations, licences and responsibilities.
- Data transmission rate: The data transmission rate is up to 100 times higher with 5G than with 4G. The highest possible data transmission rate of 10 Gbit/s corresponds to the speed of optical fibre networks and permits fast downloading of large amounts of data. For example, it takes only a few seconds to download a film.
- Capacity: The introduction of 5G will ensure a significant increase in data transmission capacities in the mobile radio networks. This is essential, as the quantity of data transmitted over the mobile radio network doubles every year.
- Latency: The response time with 5G is 30 to 50 times shorter than with 4G. Thanks to ultrafast connections, machines or tools can be controlled remotely and in real time (e.g. autonomous cars, remote surgery).
- Density: With 5G up to a million objects per km2 can be networked together; this is 100 times more than with 4G. This increase in the density of networked objects opens the door to new areas of application of the Internet of Things (IoT), such as, for example, the development of networked industrial sites (Industrial Internet of Things IIoT).
- Network control: Thanks to higher performance, 5G enables network resources to be managed more efficiently and in the process priority services and customer needs are taken into consideration.
Further Information: Mobile communications: evolution towards 5G
4G, 5G: what is staying the same?
The limit values for radiation for antennas have not been relaxed; the immission limit values and installation limit values remain the same. When deriving the limit values, the radiation of all antennas of an installation is added together. The precautionary principle laid down in the Environmental Protection Act remains in force. See the FOEN's explanations on this subject (only available in German, French and Italian).
The newly allocated frequencies are in the same range as those used for 4G. Their properties are very similar and have been known for many years, as these frequencies have been used for other applications, some of which are still in use. The use of millimetre waves for mobile communications is not allowed. The Federal Council would first have to approve this development (see Who is responsible for what in terms of 5G?)
The approval procedures for the construction or conversion of antennas and the objection procedures remain the same: cantons and municipalities must check whether the antennas comply with the radiation limit values and the building regulations.
Before applying for planning permission for a new mast outside the building zones, the operators must check whether they can install the antenna on an existing mast.
No comprehensive authorisation by a central authority is necessary for the introduction of a new radio technology such as 5G in Switzerland. However, like all other mobile radio technologies, 5G must also meet the following conditions:
- The regulations in force for mobile radio antennas and in particular the principle of preventative limitation of emissions enshrined in the Ordinance on Protection from Non-Ionising Radiation (OPNIR) must be complied with. The same regulations apply to all technologies – 2G, 3G, 4G or 5G. The Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), which is responsible for application of the OPNIR, has published implementation guidelines relating to the OPNIR for mobile radio [only available in German, French and Italian]. For each new antenna or when changes are made to existing antennas, the operator must calculate the radiation intensity and ensure that the currently applicable limits continue to be complied with.
- Appropriate frequencies must be used: The utilisation of frequencies used by telecommunications technologies, including 5G, is harmonised worldwide and is defined at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC). At these conferences the states agree on which frequencies may be used for the various technologies (e.g. digital broadcasting of radio programme services, mobile telephony, wireless microphones). Accordingly, it is incumbent on the Federal Council to define more precisely the utilisation of the different frequency bands in Switzerland. This is realised in the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP), which it approves every year.
- The conditions laid down in the licences must be complied with. In order to be allowed to use new frequencies, the operators receive licences. These are technology-neutral, so that operators can further develop the 4G network and implement 5G at the same time.
No. The frequency bands used for 5G have similar characteristics to those for 4G. 5G can in principle be implemented on all mobile radio frequencies. However, implementation is expected to take place mainly in the 3.5 - 3.8 GHz frequency range.
Yes. The 694-790 MHz frequency range was used and will still partly be used in Europe for digital television (DVB-T). The frequencies between 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz are already being used for 2G, 3G and 4G. In some countries the frequencies in the 3.5 - 3.8 GHz range, for example, are used for wireless broadband connections (BWA and WiMAX) or for wireless cameras. Frequencies between 2.4 and 5 GHz are used for Wi-Fi networks.
No. The highest frequencies allocated in February 2019 lie in the 3.5 - 3.8 GHz range and are therefore of the same order of magnitude as those for 4G. These are centimetre waves. The so-called millimetre waves are in the band above 24 GHz. It is currently being clarified whether they may possibly be used in mobile radio communication. This is however not a subject of debate in Switzerland at the moment.
See the statements of the FOEN (only available in German, French and Italian) on this subject.
IMT-2020 (International Mobile Telecommunications 2020) standard developed by
the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) defines the key technical data
of modern mobile communication systems so that these can be used globally. For
example, the standard contains information on equipment requirements for global
use or transmission quality.
5G meets the requirements of IMT-2020 and is characterized by significantly higher bit rates, faster response times, higher data transmission efficiencies and lower power consumption compared to previous technologies:
- High data rates: up to 10 Gbit/s
- Short response times (latency): the terminal device can receive a response to its request from the base station in 1 to 8 milliseconds.
- Availability of the mobile radio system during 99.999 percent of the time
Very high device density per mobile station (for the Internet of Things, IoT)
Using the frequency bands below 6 GHz, as are currently licensed in Switzerland, a maximum data rate of 3 Gbit/s is expected.
At the World Radiocommunication Conference 2019, frequency bands in the so-called millimetre range were identified for future use by mobile radio. Of these newly identified frequencies, only the 24.25-27.5 GHz, 40.5-43.5 GHz and 66-71 GHz ranges are relevant for Switzerland. The Federal Council decides on the use of these frequency bands in Switzerland within the framework of the approval of the National Frequency Allocation Plan. On the basis of this decision, ComCom could clarify the demand on the market and, if necessary, allocate the corresponding frequencies (e.g. by auction).
Millimetre waves have already been used for several years to provide a considerable number of radio services. These include directional radio, earth-satellite communication systems, video transmission systems, speed radar, weather and terrain radar, as well as devices with distance and level sensors and automotive distance radar.
5G can exploit the technological advances associated with increasingly powerful microprocessors. More information can be transmitted using the same bandwidth and using less power. In addition, 5G enables the following:
- 50 x faster response times than with 4G and more simultaneously connected devices per square meter
- increased autonomy for networked sensors due to lower power consumption in order to meet the requirements of future services and devices
- different service characteristics in the same network (network slicing)
Less than 5 percent of the base stations'
transmission capacity was used for 2G at the end of 2018, and for 3G the figure
was 25 percent. A large part of mobile voice communication is still based on 3G.
The capacity freed up by phasing out these technologies would be far from
sufficient for the introduction of 5G.
Many terminals still work with 3G technology and would have to be replaced if 3G is phased out. Swiss mobile operators have already announced when 2G will be phased out.
Compared to 4G, "true 5G" has higher data rates, shorter response times and the ability to connect a larger number of terminals. The introduction of "true" 5G networks will take place gradually over a longer period of time on the existing mobile network.
"5G wide" is the designation given by a mobile network operator to an expansion stage which does not yet include all the features of the 5G specification.
Most existing antennas in urban areas are already at their capacity limits (use the entire available radiation allocation). New antennas must therefore be installed in order to increase 4G network capacity (since the volume of data transferred doubles almost every year) and to implement 5G.
No. The new antenna models can be used for 4G and 5G. This is, for example, the case with adaptive antennas (only available in German, French and Italian). Even if these antennas use a higher-performance technology enabling substantially more information to be transferred more quickly, they have to comply with the radiation limits in force in Switzerland.
The new so-called adaptive antennas (only available in German, French and Italian) transmit information specifically to individual users who therefore enjoy an optimal data transmission rate. In all other directions the radiation is reduced.
The locations of all radio transmitters are shown on an overview map of Switzerland. It is possible to choose which type of antenna (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G) is displayed.
Yes. The current legal framework applies to all antennas: old or new, for 2G, 3G, 4G or 5G. The precautionary principle, according to which the radiation limits must be ten times lower in Switzerland than in neighbouring countries, must therefore also be complied with by 5G antennas, which are no different from 4G antennas in this regard. See the explanations of the FOEN on this subject (only available in German, French and Italian).
Some 22 percent of installations are currently operated jointly. It is assumed that about half of all installations in urban, suburban and rural areas are suitable for joint use. Most joint use currently takes place in rural areas.
There are various reasons why an antenna is not suitable for joint use by other operators: In urban and suburban areas, the density of use of mobile phone networks is so heavy that it is not possible to install more transmitting power on the existing mobile phone masts due to the strict limit values (precautionary values). Other reasons include the lack of space for equipment as well as insufficient power supply and cooling possibilities of the installation, insufficient statics of the mast, the lack of owner consent and the impairment of the local landscape.
The costs for maintenance and operation of antenna sites could be reduced by joint use of antenna sites. Competition among the operators would be increased by joint use, since the operators could transmit from the same location. Joint use would reduce the number of planning applications and improve network quality.
Frequency allocation and licences
The procedure for allocating frequencies to operators was implemented normally and in a similar way to that in the year 2012, which made the implementation of 4G possible. In June and July 2017, on behalf the Federal Communications Commission (ComCom), the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) conducted a public consultation on the necessity for an award of new frequencies within the 700 MHz, 1400 MHz, 2.6 GHz and 3.5 GHz ranges. The feedback received indicated great interest in the use of these new frequencies in order on the one hand to develop the 4G network and cover the growing need for capacity and on the other hand to implement 5G technology. In its "Digital Switzerland" strategy, the Federal Council stresses how important it is for Switzerland to release the frequencies which are essential for the development of new ways of life and working and new products and services. In the action plan which defines the implementation of the strategy, the goal of awarding licences for 5G by the second quarter of 2019 at the latest was specified. In this connection, the Federal Council released new frequencies for mobile radio in November 2017 on the basis of global decisions on harmonisation of frequency utilisation and the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP). See also the answers to the questions "Who authorises the introduction of a new communication technology such as 5G in Switzerland?" and "Who is responsible for 5G matters?".
The licences awarded in February 2019 are technology-neutral, so operators can choose whether they want to use them for 4G or 5G.
No. The "Mobile radio and radiation working group" (only available in German, French and Italian) has the task of evaluating the medium- and long-term development of mobile radio technologies and analysing the associated risks and needs. See also the detailed explanations of the FOEN (only available in German, French and Italian).
The Federal Council has taken note of the report and on 22 April 2020 decided on the further procedure regarding 5G.
See the media release (available in German, French and Italian).
The construction and operation of new antennas, as well as the radiation limits, are already regulated within the current legal framework. This framework also applies to 5G.
On behalf of the Confederation, the Communications Commission (ComCom) awarded the mobile radio operators licences which entitle them to use new frequencies. The Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) had been commissioned by ComCom to conduct the auction procedure. The additional mobile radio frequencies (700 MHz, 1400 MHz and 3.5-3.8 GHz) were allocated for 15 years, which gives operators long-term planning security for network development.
C.f. press release of 8 February 2016: Mobile radio frequencies for 5G awarded in Switzerland
No. Licences are technology-neutral, i.e. operators can use them to develop their 4G network or for the implementation of 5G. However, 5G will probably be used in the 3.5 - 3.8 GHz frequency range.
The proceeds, amounting to CHF 380 million, go into the Confederation's coffers as extraordinary revenue (Art. 13 para. 2 of the Financial Budget Act, FBA (Finanzhaushaltgesetz, FHG only available in German, French and Italian)).
The Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) is responsible for verifying compliance with the licensing conditions, including the use of the correct frequency blocks. The licensing provisions specify that operators must regularly provide OFCOM with the operational data (frequency, performance) of all 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G transmission equipment operated by them on Swiss territory. OFCOM stores this information in a database, on the basis of which the overview map with the locations of the radio transmitters is generated and published.
The Federal Communications Commission (ComCom) specifies the proportion of the population covered and the period for achieving it. These conditions were already defined in the invitation to tender. There is, however, a degree of flexibility in order not to prevent new participants from entering the market. In this way it can be ensured that the frequencies are actually being used. If this is not the case, the right to use the frequencies can be revoked from an operator. See Tender Documents.
Allocation of responsibilities
- The Federal Office of Communications OFCOM verifies whether services, equipment and applications for mobile communication are using the frequencies reserved for them, and updates the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP). It publishes a map of mobile radio antennas, which is based on the data provided by operators. In addition, OFCOM ensures that the provisions of the telecommunications legislation and of the licences are complied with. If it finds there has been a violation of the regulations, it can take measures itself or request ComCom to intervene in cases which concern the content of licences.
- The Federal Communications Commission (ComCom) awards licences which permit the use of mobile radio frequencies and specifies the objectives of operators regarding coverage of the territory and the coverage of the population with these services.
- The Federal Office for the Environment FOEN is responsible for questions concerning radiation from mobile radio base stations and their effects on health (only available in German, French and Italian). It ensures that the requirements laid down in the Ordinance on Protection from Non-Ionising Radiation are met. In addition, the FOEN issues recommendations and implementation guidelines for municipalities and cantons. It has also convened the Expert Group on Non-Ionising Radiation (BERENIS) to evaluate studies on the health-related effects of non-ionising radiation. The FOEN also lead the "Mobile Radio and Radiation" working group (only available in German, French and Italian), which analysed the requirements and risks in connection with the construction of mobile radio networks in Switzerland and made recommendations.
- The Federal Office of Public Health FOPH deals with the Influence of electromagnetic fields on health (in particular from mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and Bluetooth devices).
- The Federal Council decides on amendments to the Ordinance on Protection from Non-Ionising Radiation. It approves the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP), which OFCOM submits to it after international negotiations on frequency allocation.
- The cantonal environmental protection offices are responsible for the application of the OPNIR and for compliance with the limits for non-ionising radiation laid down in the ordinance. They examine operators' calculations on the radiation intensity of every antenna. The consents for the construction of new antennas or the modification of existing antennas are available in the FOEN explanations (only available in German, French and Italian).
Last modification 15.06.2022
Bundesamt für Kommunikation