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What About 5G?
5G technology is deploying fast but, to date, the scientific community is not yet sure of the consequences of electromagnetic pollution on humans, especially on the more sensitive, children, adolescents and the sick. Given that for ionizing radiation these risks are already scientifically proven, possible health risks that could be associated with various forms of non-ionizing radiation are still under investigation and prudence is advised by suggesting avoiding installing antennas near hospitals, schools and kindergartens
5G is the fifth generation of wireless communications technologies. Judging from the enthusiastic reception of 5G technology by governments and industry, we are on the verge of a technological revolution. Initially introduced to help wireless networks cope with ever-increasing data traffic on their networks, 5G will lead to game-changing innovations such as remote surgery, control of driverless vehicles and much more. Since the first commercial launch in the US and South Korea towards the end of 2018, large scale adoption began in 2019 and today virtually every telecommunication service provider in the developed world is upgrading its infrastructure to offer 5G functionality. Mobile 5G is now commercially available in 24 markets globally. Top countries include South Korea, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States with multiple companies having deployed networks and selling compatible devices. According to the state-run news agency Xinhua, the world’s largest 5G network was launched in China by the three largest Chinese network operators in October 2019. Countries including Switzerland and Finland, are up and comers in 5G development, with limited deployment so far.
The GSMA annual statement of the global mobile economy report predicts 5G will account for a fifth (20%) of global connections by 2025 —foreseeing a big technological break-up. A particularly strong increase is expected across developed Asia, North America, and Europe. According to the GSMA, the association representing the interests of mobile network operators worldwide, 4G became the dominant mobile technology globally in 2019 — with over 4bn connections, accounting for 52% of total connections (excluding licensed cellular IoT). 4G connections are expected to continue to grow for the next few years, peaking at just under 60% of global connections by 2023. As it stands actual 5G connections remain a fraction of the connectivity pie compared to current (4G) and previous cellular technologies.
As with previous cellular technologies, 5G networks rely on signals carried by radio waves - part of the electromagnetic spectrum - transmitted between an antenna or mast and your phone. We are surrounded by electromagnetic radiation all the time - from television and radio signals, as well as from a whole range of technologies, including mobile phones and from natural sources such as sunlight. The cutting-edge network technology (5G) is now capable of supporting speeds up to 100x faster than LTE/4G and delivering latency (time between receipt of a signal by a cellular base station and its response) of just a few milliseconds, meaning higher frequency waves than earlier mobile networks, being able to connect many more devices per cell site and at faster speeds. The higher frequencies, known as millimeter waves, are new to mobile phone networks, but are commonly used in other applications, such as point-topoint radio links and body-scanners for security checks. These waves travel shorter distances through urban spaces, so 5G networks require more transmitter masts (base stations that transmit and receive mobile phone signals) than previous technologies, positioned closer to ground level. As it rolls out, 5G is also expected to underpin a new wave of “smarter” digital services generating real-time AI assistance and help drive the digitization of legacy industries (industries not completely digitized).
For a better understanding, the frequency spectrum of 5G is divided into millimeter waves, mid-band and low-band. 5G millimeter wave is the fastest, with actual speeds often being 1–2 Gbit/s down. Frequencies are above 24 GHz reaching up to 72 GHz which is above the extremely high frequency band's lower boundary. The reach is short, so more cells are required. Millimeter waves have difficulty traversing many walls and windows, so indoor coverage is limited. 5G mid-band is the most widely deployed, in over 30 networks. Speeds in a 100 MHz wide band are usually 100–400 Mbit/s down. Frequencies deployed are from 2.4 GHz to 4.2 GHz. Many areas can be covered simply by upgrading existing towers, which lowers the cost. Mid-band networks have better reach, bringing the cost close to the cost of 4G. 5G lowband offers similar capacity to advanced 4G. So millimeter waves are not the only, or even the main, way that service providers will deliver 5G service. The wireless industry is focused more on using mid- and low-band frequencies for 5G, because deploying a massive number of millimeter-wave access points will be time-consuming and expensive. In other words, 5G will continue using the same radio frequencies that have been used for decades for broadcast radio and television, satellite communications, mobile services, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
As it stands, there are still relatively few 5G smartphones in comparison to non-5Gs handsets, although many are being released. But, most importantly, according to the GSMA report, consumer demand for the next generation of connectivity has yet to be strengthen. The number of live 5G markets is increasing by the day and consumers’ awareness of the technology is also growing however, there is wide variation across the globe in terms of intentions to upgrade to 5G and the willingness to pay more for it. In general, consumers in South Korea and China, having experienced some of the earliest launches, appear to be the most excited by the prospect of upgrading to 5G, while those in the US, Europe and Japan seem more content with 4G for the time being. The GSMA report adds that adults in markets such as the UK, Australia, Spain, and Italy have high awareness of the technology but low intent to pay for 5G, with less than 35% saying they want to upgrade. The US market also has a similarly high level of awareness and only a slightly higher intention to upgrade (40%+). The report also highlights variable and often low interest, certainly outside China, for a range of “smart” devices. Still, the GSMA predicts billions more IoT devices will be coming on stream over the next five years — saying that between 2019 and 2025 the number of global IoT connections will more than double to almost 25 billion, while it expects global IoT revenue to more than triple to $1.1 trillion. Among the near-term hopes on the GSMA’s list is that health wearables become part of the solution to overburdened public health systems and a 2025 prediction for 5G is that the technology becomes “the first generation in the history of mobile to have a bigger impact on enterprise than consumers”
As service providers around the world race to build networks, 5G, however, has become intensely controversial in many locations, with citizens' groups, and some scientists, expressing concerns about the new technologies involved and the possible health effects on "involuntary" exposures to radio-frequency (RF) signals from environmental sources, including cellular base stations. Activist groups, supported by an even greater emphasis given by the internet and social media, have protested the installation of wi-fi in schools, wireless-enabled electric utility meters, cellular base stations and other infrastructure that transmits RF energy into the environment. The imminent rollout of 5G technology will in fact require the installation of hundreds of thousands of 'small cell' sites in neighborhoods and communities throughout. There are real concerns about the way 5G is being deployed including security issues, the potential to interfere with weather forecasting systems and the steamrolling of regulations to accelerate the rollout, to mention a few. Public opposition appears to focus on two characteristics, and fears, of 5G networks: First, that the effects of millimeter-wave signals might be more dangerous than traditional frequencies. While millimeter waves have not so far been used for cellular communications, they have been used for many other applications, including airport security scanners, anti-collision radar for automobiles and to link present-day cellular base stations. Public discussions seem to confuse 5G with millimeter-wave communication. In fact, many 5G networks will operate at frequencies close to those used by present cellular networks, and some may use millimeter waves to handle high data traffic where needed. The second concern is the larger number of access points, some potentially much closer to people's homes, that might expose people to more radiation than 4G services. 5G systems will in fact rely on a multitude of "small cells" mounted close to subscribers, often on utility poles running along public streets. These small cells will incorporate "smart" antennas that transmit multiple beams which can be independently steered to individual subscribers. But crucially, because there are more transmitters, each one can operate at much lower power levels than "macro" cells used by present systems, which are typically located on tops of buildings in urban areas. In the long run, these will be supplemented by picocells (small base station meant to extend coverage to indoor areas) mounted inside buildings, operating at still lower power levels. Nonetheless, the prospects of a dramatic increase in the number of sources transmitting RF signals is undoubtedly disquieting to many citizens, regardless of the actual health risks as understood by health agencies. Even before 5G rollout the electromagnetic radiation used by all mobile phone technologies has led some people to worry about increased health risks, including developing certain types of cancer. However, researchers seem to have yet to find conclusive evidence linking mobile phone use to cancer or other health problems, consequently it seems that there’s little reason even to think that 5G frequencies are any more harmful than other types of electromagnetic radiation, like visible light, for example. In 2014 the World Health Organization (WHO) said that "no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use". Still, fears persist, in part because of inconclusive studies. Many critics of 5G and other wireless technologies point to the fact that the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in 2011, classified all radio frequency radiation (of which mobile signals are a part) as "possibly carcinogenic”. It has been put in this category because "there is evidence that falls short of being conclusive that exposure may cause cancer in humans". Eating pickled vegetables, drinking coffee, or using talcum powder are classified in the same category. Alcoholic drinks and processed meat are in a higher category because the evidence is stronger. Radio waves, visible light and ultraviolet light are all part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The higher-frequency parts of the spectrum, including x-rays and gamma rays, are what is known as "ionizing radiation." This is the radiation we should worry about. It can break molecular bonds and cause cancer. Millimeter waves and other radio waves band used for mobile phone networks - along with visible light, are considered non-ionizing, meaning they lack enough energy to break apart DNA and cause cellular damage. Millimeter waves are higher frequency than traditional broadcast frequencies, but they are still below the frequency of visible light and far below ionizing radiation such as shortwave ultraviolet light, x-rays, and gamma rays. Higher up the electromagnetic spectrum, well beyond those frequencies used by mobile phones, there are clear health risks from extended exposure. The sun's ultra-violet rays can lead to skin cancers. There are strict advisory limits for exposure to even higher energy radiation levels such as medical x-rays and gamma rays, which can both lead to damaging effects within the human body.
There are, of course, individual studies that conflict with the scientific consensus that non-ionizing radiation poses health risks beyond heat. A study published in 2018 by the National Toxicology Program (NTP - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) and pointed to by those express ing safety concerns, found that male rats exposed to high doses (900 MHz) of radio frequency radiation (RFR) developed a type of cancerous tumor in the heart (the study states: clear evidence of tumors in the hearts of male rats/ some evidence of tumors in the brains of male rats/some evidence of tumors in the adrenal glands of male rats). The exposure levels used in the studies were equal to and higher than the highest level permitted for local tissue exposure in cell phone emissions today. Cell phones typically emit lower levels of RFR than the maximum level allowed. For this study, rats' whole bodies were exposed to radiation from mobile phones for nine hours a day every day for two years, starting before they were born. No cancer link was found for the female rats or the mice studied. It was also found that rats exposed to the radiation lived longer than those in the control group. A senior scientist on the study said that "the levels and duration of exposure to RFR were much greater than what people experience with even the highest level of cell phone use and exposed the rodents' whole bodies. So, these findings should not be directly extrapolated to human cell phone usage", he added. "We note, however, that the tumors we saw in these studies are similar to tumors previously reported in some studies of frequent cell phone users”. In conclusion, although some of the research suggests a statistical possibility of increased cancer risks for heavy users, the evidence to date for a causal relation is not sufficiently convincing to suggest the need for precautionary action. "Cell phone technologies are constantly changing, and these findings provide valuable information to help guide future studies of cell phone safety." the senior scientist stated. The NTP concludes that millimeter waves do not travel as far and do not penetrate the body as deeply as do the wavelengths from the lower frequencies. Millimeter waves are likely to penetrate no deeper than the skin, whereas the lower frequencies have been shown to penetrate at least three to four inches into the human body. NTP is also currently evaluating the existing literature on the higher frequencies intended for use in the 5G network and is working to better understand the biological basis for the cancer findings reported in earlier studies on RFR with 2G and 3G technologies. The exposure system is also being designed to have the capability to conduct studies with various RFR frequencies and modulations to keep up with the changing technologies in the telecommunications industry.
Nonetheless, in contrast to the cautious and generally reassuring assessments by health agencies, a few scientists have warned loudly about possible hazards of 5G. In the US, a visible scientist in the public arena on this issue claims that 5G will cause an "almost instantaneous" crash in human reproduction "almost to zero." At the same time, a group of scientists and doctors in Europe have written to the EU calling for the rollout of 5G to be halted. The appeal, signed by 245 scientists as of August 2019, recommended "a moratorium on the roll-out of the fifth generation for telecommunication until potential hazards for human health and the environment have been fully investigated." In a response to the appeal, the head of the Cabinet of Commissioners of the European Union reiterated reassuring advice of expert reports and indicated that the request to "stop the distribution of 5G products appears too drastic a measure. We first need to see how this new technology will be applied and how the scientific evidence will evolve", indicating that the commissioners would keep up with future developments.
That is not to say, of course, that overexposure to non-ionizing radiation cannot have negative side effects. Electromagnetic energy produces heat, which is apparently the only health concern posed by radio waves. This position is backed up by decades of research on the biological effects of non-ionizing radiation, including millimeter waves. A paper published by the engineering professional organization IEEE’s International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety reviewing more than 1,300 peer-reviewed studies on the biological effects of radio frequencies found "no adverse health effects that were not thermally related." However, at the levels used for 5G (and earlier mobile technologies) the heating effects are not harmful, according to Prof Rodney Croft, an adviser to the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). "The maximum radio frequency level that someone in the community could be exposed to from 5G, or any other signals in general community areas, is so small that no temperature rise has been observed to date."
To protect against heat related effects, communications regulatory bodies set limits on how much energy wireless devices can emit. Two international bodies produce exposure guidelines on electromagnetic fields that many countries currently adhere to: The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), through the International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety. These guidelines are not technology-specific, they cover radiofrequencies up to 300 GHz, including the frequencies under discussion for 5G. Most countries around the world have roughly adopted similar RF exposure limits. Such limits are designed to avoid established hazards of RF energy that result from excessive heating of tissue. A few countries, such as Italy, Belgium and India, and cities, like Paris, have adopted lower limits on "precautionary" grounds. These are, partially, a political accommodation to concerned citizens, also a hedge against the possibility that low level or "nonthermal" hazards might be demonstrated in the future. Russia and some of its former Warsaw Pact allies also have much lower exposure limits.
Thus, according to the WHO, to date, and after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies. Health-related conclusions are drawn from studies performed across the entire radio spectrum but, so far, only a few studies have been carried out at the frequencies to be used by 5G. Tissue heating is the main mechanism of interaction between radiofrequency fields and the human body. Radiofrequency exposure levels from current technologies result in negligible temperature rise in the human body. As the frequency increases, there is less penetration into the body tissues and absorption of the energy becomes more confined to the surface of the body (skin and eye). Provided that the overall exposure remains below international guidelines, no consequences for public health are anticipated.
Fully investigating potential hazards of 5G, or any other technology, seems endless as the technology is evolving rapidly. More studies on possible health and safety implications of millimeter waves are surely needed. At the same time, cellular networks are undergoing "densification" (adding many small cells) to manage their ever-increasing data traffic. By allowing faster transmission of data and steering beams toward individual users, 5G may, in fact, reduce the overall levels of RF signals in the environment—but this will eventually be offset by the rapidly growing data traffic on cellular networks and by the eventual flood of wireless-connected devices that 5G will make possible.
In addition, as protests and comments on health risks by some scientific experts and several organizations seem to be ignored by health agencies, some have highlighted the possibility that the scientific community might be political and industry supportive more than scientific and health promoting. For a definitive conclusion however, high-quality research is needed, as well as continued monitoring of the scientific literature by health agencies.
cautionary measures should be taken, globally. Maybe, simple measures on the devices, such as earphone incorporated in the phone, or warnings of possible health risks in cell phone instructions and packages so that the device is kept away from the body, and other technological measures that manufacturing companies can certainly come up with. Public health needs timely action to reduce exposure, companies must conceive better technologies, invest in training and research, focus on a safety approach rather than power, quality, and efficiency of the radio signal. We are all responsible for the new generations to come and we must ensure that cell phones and wireless technology do not become the next tobacco, for which we knew the risks but ignored them for decades. Of course, wireless technologies bring enormous benefits, but we can all certainly try to modify our habits and contain its use.
Among Main Sources: - Extracts from “Does 5G pose health risks?” By Reality Check teamBBC News. For full article: https://www.bbc.com/news/ world-europe-48616174 -Extracts from “5G Is Coming: How Worried Should We Be about the Health Risks? So far, at least, there’s little evidence of danger” By Kenneth R. Foster. For full article: https:// blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/5g-is-cominghow-worried-should-we-be-about-the-health-risks/ Kenneth R. Foster, PhD, PE, is an emeritus professor of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, and has been involved in studies of health and safety aspects of RF energy for many years. He is a member of the International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety (ICES), which sets exposure limits for RF energy. He is also a registered professional engineer and provides engineering consulting services to industry and government, chiefly on exposure assessment for RF fields. -World Health Organization-WHO - https://www.who. int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/electromagnetic-fields-and-public-health-mobile-phones https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/5g-mobile-networks-and-health -Extracts from “Worried About 5G’s Health Effects? Don’t Be”, for full article: https://www.wired.com/story/worried-5ghealth-effects-dont-be/ -National Toxicology Program- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Cell Phone Radio Frequency Radiation” https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/whatwestudy/topics/cellphones/ index.html?utm_source=direct&utm_medium=prod&utm_ campaign=ntpgolinks&utm_term=cellphone -For full article on “High Exposure to Radiofrequency Radiation Linked to Tumor Activity in Male Rats” - NIEHA- National Institute for of Environmental Health Sciences https://www.niehs. nih.gov/news/newsroom/releases/2018/february2/index.cfm -National Toxicology Program https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ events/panels/index2.cfm -“The Top Countries with 5G Deployments and Trials” -https://www.sdxcentral.com/5g/definitions/the-top-countries-with-5g-deployments-and-trials/ -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5G -For full Mobile Economy 2020 report: GSMA_MobileEconomy2020_Global.pdf The GSM Association (GSMA) is an industry organization representing the interests of mobile network operators worldwide. More than 750 mobile operators are full GSMA members and a further 400 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem are associate members. The GSMA also produces the industry leading MWC events held annually in Barcelona, Los Angeles, and Shanghai, as well as the Mobile 360 Series of regional conferences. www.gsma.com -Article by Natasha Lomas -https://techcrunch. com/2020/03/05/5g-is-now-live-in-24-markets-gsma-predicts-itll-be-20-of-global-connections-by-2025-and-eyes-abig-tech-break-up/