The rollout of 5G networks around the world does not pose risks to human health. That was the message from an online briefing session during the 2020 IEC General Meeting.
The electromagnetic spectrum was the starting point for a look at the safety of 5G and the earlier generations of mobile telecommunications networks. The spectrum ranges from electric power to gamma radiation, with radio waves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet and X-rays in between.
The radio frequency band — used for 3G, 4G and 5G — is in the non-ionizing part of the spectrum, which does not pose the health risks associated with ionizing radiation where we find the ultraviolet band, medical X-rays and radioactive sources. Nevertheless, very strict safety standards are in place for non-ionizing radiation, which beyond certain thresholds can heat body tissue and even cause burns.
The safety recommendations derive from the work of the International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection. ICNIRP produces regularly updated guidelines for protection against harmful effects of radiofrequency fields based on over 50 years of scientific research.
The ICNIRP has concluded that there is no evidence that 5G radiation poses a threat to human health. There is also good news for the environment.
5G power levels at base stations and on devices are very low. In fact, 5G is more efficient than 3G and 4G, which means that the actual power used to establish and guarantee a connection is very low.
At the same time, exposure levels are coming down thanks to the beam steering technology used by 5G, which avoids spillage. Beam steering is more efficient as it can connect more users through the smaller radio signals.
Moderating the session was Mike Wood, who leads IEC development work on electromagnetic field safety standards for 5G and all of the other wireless networks. Wood has been heavily involved in the rollout of 5G in his native Australia, where he works for the mobile operator, Telstra.
Completing the distinguished panel were: Sami Gabriel of Vodafone Group, who develops IEC electromagnetism safety standards for base stations, handsets and IoT devices; Thomas Barmueller, the Mobile and Wireless Forum (MWF) director for Europe, Middle East and Africa; Matt Schultz, president of the Australian Smart Communities Association and co-chair of digital infrastructure in the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance; and Ian Oppermann, IEC Council Board member and Chief Data Scientist for the New South Wales government, in Australia.
Other topics covered in the GM 2020 moderated networking sessions include cyber security, the transition to a circular economy, conformity assessment, artificial intelligence and IEC Young Professionals Programme.
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