5G — the next generation of cellular technology — isn’t the future. It’s happening right now. Currently, various operators are in a whirl of 5G activity in major urban areas: EE, Vodafone and Three launched 5G services recently, while O2 is switching on its 5G network in October.
The benefits of 5G technology
For some customers, this innovation can’t come soon enough. The speed 5G offers is well-documented, with higher data rates able to transfer larger volumes of information.
5G also brings the promise of better connectivity. This will be a boon for the automotive industry, supporting applications for autonomous vehicles; while trucks will be able to drive in networked convoys (so called ‘platooning’) to benefit the logistics sector. In agriculture, 5G will make it easier to use drones for crop and livestock monitoring. In healthcare, ambulance crews will be able to scan patients on the move and then transmit the information to hospitals in advance of their arrival. The government’s stance is that 5G will be good for business, creating more commercial opportunities and increasing productivity.
Why is there concern that 5G poses a health risk?
Yet, in the background, there’s chatter that the roll-out of 5G may pose a public health risk. This is unwarranted says Bob Driver, Head of UK5G at CW (Cambridge Wireless Limited), although we have been here before. “Around the turn of the century there was a worry that mobile phones could pose a health risk — although fears subsided when the government’s Stewart Inquiry found no evidence to support this.”
The concern over 5G has baffled some in the industry and surprised others, notes Bob. “But the fact is there have always been people who are suspicious of mobile phone technology. Plus, the amplifying effect of social media doesn’t help. These days, it’s much easier to cherry pick from the swathe of scientific papers on this topic — some of which are of limited value, some of which have clinical relevance — and share these online.” He observes that 3G didn’t suffer this fate, because it occurred in the pre-social media age; while 4G was viewed as an extension of the previous technology.
How safe is 5G?
5G is different, however. “It’s true that some 5G networks will work at higher frequencies, and that some terms used in advanced base station technology — such as ‘beamforming’ and ‘massive MiMo’ (Multiple input Multiple Output) — can sound alarming,” says Bob. “Yet it’s important to say that 5G sits well within the guidelines established by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), a body formally recognised by the World Health Association (WHO), which provides scientific advice and guidance on the health and environmental effects of non-ionizing radiation (NIR) to protect people and the environment from detrimental NIR exposure.”
What’s more, Public Health England has concluded there’s no convincing evidence that human exposure of radio waves below ICNIRP guideline levels causes health effects in either adults or children and, in the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that 5G poses no new risk.
No doubt there will still be dissenting voices about the 5G revolution — but, officially, it offers no cause for alarm.
For more information please visit the UK5G.org website: