Switzerland Afraid Of 3G
By Mike Masnick, Mon Jun 14 21:30:00 GMT 2004

Last year, a massively hyped study on 3G base stations said that they made people sick -- though, they also made people smarter. Switzerland apparently wants to stay dumb, but healthy, and is considering banning 3G.

The press went crazy over last year's study from a Dutch research group claiming that exposure to 3G base stations made people feel ill, while also improving their cognitive ability -- leading to many discussions about whether people would rather be sick, smart and well connected, or healthy, dumb and marginally connected.

Of course, a closer look at the study suggested it wasn't quite as bad (or, depending on your perspective, good) as the original reports made it out to be. The study was on a fairly small sample size, and there was little to prove any real causation from the exposure to the base station.

Still, some bureaucrats in the Swiss Buwal (federal office for environment, forest and landscape) have come across the study and decided that they side with those who choose to be dumb, healthy and less well connected. They're expected to ban UMTS 3G phone systems in the country, which should send the European wireless industry into quite an uproar. It's unlikely this ban will stand very long -- if both the industry and end-users push hard enough to change the minds of those in charge.

Switzerland is already quite a mobile country with 79 subscribers for every 100 inhabitants at the end of 2002 (so it should be even higher these days). It seems unlikely that Swiss citizens will be thrilled to stick with GPRS connections while their neighbors enjoy 3G speeds. Of course, perhaps this is just a move by the government to protect Swisscom's astronomical Wi-Fi fees. Obviously, health issues when it comes to wireless technologies are no laughing matter - but with so many studies over the years disagreeing over the health impacts of wireless technologies, it seems questionable to pick just one study with known issues as the deciding factor in banning a technology.