Low-radiation communications technologies

Advice and information on wireless technologies and the environment

Five trained Swisscom employees provide advice to people who are involved in the construction and operation of mobile networks. They also advise stakeholder groups seeking general information on wireless technologies, the environment and health. During the reporting year, Swisscom held around 170 discussions with key stakeholder groups on the subjects of mobile communications and the environment. These discussions are generally motivated by local projects. This figure comes on the back of some 530 discussions held the year before. The marked decline in the number of discussions is attributable to two main factors: firstly, for resource-related reasons, Swisscom only engages in dialogue for local mobile telecommunications projects on a reactive basis; and, secondly, the controversy surrounding mobile telecommunications and the environment in general has abated.

In order to develop mobile communications in dialogue with local stakeholders and identify new mobile communications sites, Swisscom has worked together with the industry to develop and introduce a voluntary participation procedure which will help to determine new mobile communications sites. Swisscom has already launched this dialogue model in a number of cantons. It also maintains a regular exchange with environmental agencies in order to ensure that environmental regulations for mobile communications are implemented correctly at all times. Thanks to the dialogue model, Swisscom is able to set up mobile communications sites that not only meet its own requirements, but also take into account the needs of local authorities and residents. For example, Swisscom has installed a mobile communications site on top of the fire station in the municipality of Kriens (canton of Lucerne) that is not only well situated to transmit and receive radio signals, but is also well accepted by people living in the surrounding area. In Kerns (canton of Obwalden), after a contract with the site owner ran its course, Swisscom was forced to find a new site for the mobile phone antenna. The local municipality and parish gave Swisscom the green light to erect a mobile phone mast on the church tower.

Research and development in the area of electromagnetic fields

The operation of wireless networks entails a great deal of responsibility for Swisscom. As a result, Swisscom follows scientific progress in the area of electromagnetic fields and works with internal and external specialists who analyse research findings and support relevant scientific work.

For example, Swisscom cooperates with and financially supports the Swiss Research Foundation for Electricity and Mobile Communication (FSM) based at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. The FSM continually monitors and interprets the latest research published on the effect of electromagnetic fields on organisms and the measurement of emissions.

Based on current knowledge, scientists consider the current limits for electromagnetic fields as safe. Additional information is available in the WHO Fact Sheets No. 193 and No. 304.


Certification of the quality assurance system for compliance with ONIR limits

Swisscom is required to operate a quality assurance system (QAS) for its mobile base stations to ensure that the installations in operation comply with the statutory limits at all times. In recent years, Swisscom has had its QAS certified to the ISO 15504 standard. However, this norm is now being gradually replaced by norm ISO 33002:2015. In the year under review, Swisscom therefore underwent the conversion to ISO norm 33002:2015 for the initial certification of its QA system. An assessment and a monitoring audit of the QAS in accordance with norm ISO 33002:2015 were carried out by an external auditor mandated by Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) in November 2016. Swisscom passed the audit, scoring a capability level of 3 (good) out of a maximum of 5. This result certifies that Swisscom has taken due account of all relevant processes governing compliance with the applicable limits when operating its mobile base stations.

Compliance with ONIR limits

The legal obligation to limit emissions from mobile communication installations in Switzerland is set out in the Ordinance on Protection from Non-Ionising Radiation (ONIR), the aim of which is to protect people against harmful or undesirable non-ionising radiation. The ordinance applies to the operation of fixed installations that emit electrical and magnetic fields with frequencies of between 0 Hz and 300 GHz. The ONIR limits are ten times lower than those in the most other countries. In 2016, Swisscom met all federal legal requirements with respect to the ONIR. The responsible cantonal specialist offices may conduct random and independent checks for compliance with the limits pursuant to the ONIR at any time. Six cantons availed themselves of this opportunity during the year under review. The checks revealed that the inspected installations met the legal requirements. Out of the 29 installations inspected, only five small or formal errors were identified; these were not relevant for the emissions produced by the installations.

Duty to provide information on products offered at points of sale

Prices on all products on display and offered by Swisscom are clearly disclosed as prescribed by the Federal Ordinance on the Disclosure of Prices. This declaration is supplemented by relevant technical information on the products. Customers and other interested parties can also find information on the levels of radiation emitted by mobile handsets (SAR values) at Swisscom points of sale and on the website. There is no legal obligation to provide this information. Instead, Swisscom provides this information to satisfy the customer need of knowing the relevant level of radiation when selecting a device. As at December 2016, all mobile telephones offered by Swisscom comply with the limit of 2 W/kg pursuant to the recommendation made by the WHO; 52% are under 0.8 W/kg (prior year: 75%), and 43% are below 0.6 W/kg (prior year: 41%).