Is 5G safe? Your questions answered

21st May 2019

This year, EE is rolling out 5G to the busiest parts of 16 UK cities. We’re really excited to see how the next generation of mobile technology will benefit consumers and businesses, but we understand there are some questions being asked around any environmental and health effects associated with 5G.

Fact vs. Fiction
The vast majority of concerns about 5G are based on the misunderstanding that 5G is a ‘millimetre wave’ or ‘mmWave’ technology – this isn’t true. Operators will not be launching 5G mobile networks with mmWave frequencies in the UK in 2019. Articles have been written about mmWave spectrum (radio waves between 28GHz and 100GHz, with a very short wavelength) being a ‘military’ technology and even suggesting that the use of it will result in a mobile site ‘for every 10-20 houses in the UK’. These things are not true.

It’s important that the facts are explained so that the public are informed and not misled.

We are initially rolling out 5G on spectrum in the 3.4GHz range. This is very similar to our 4G, 3G and 2G services, which operate on radio spectrum between 800MHz and 2.6GHz. We will roll 5G out using existing mast sites – meaning there will be no significant increase in sites in our initial roll out over the coming year.

Will 5G harm my health?
Since the industry started operating mobile networks back in the 80s, all wireless technologies have to be rolled out under strict government guidelines, which are based on medical studies and research programmes going back more than twenty years, and are reviewed on an ongoing basis. The research and associated guidelines include all wireless technologies used globally and in the UK – for 2G, 3G, 4G, WiFi and now 5G. – including both low frequency and higher frequency radio spectrum, also known as mmWave radio spectrum.

In addition, there are strict rules on the power level that each site broadcasts a signal at – this is governed by an organisation called ICNIRP.org, which informs the Health & Safety Executive and Public Health England, together acting as the health-related watchdog for the mobile industry. All 5G is being rolled out within those guidelines.

It’s important to point out that no health risks have been established from exposure to the low-level radio signals used for mobile communications (and WiFi), and this includes 5G Operators in the US have chosen to use the higher frequency mmWave spectrum, and there is no danger associated to that - because all new wireless technologies are rolled out under similar strict guidelines.

Non-ionizing vs Ionizing waves
It’s also important to understand that the radio waves that carry mobile signals are non-ionizing. What does this mean? That’s best answered by looking at the waves that are ionizing: alpha rays, beta rays and gamma rays. These waves have the power to change the structure of a cell, and potentially cause illness, such as cancer, if there is significant exposure.

However, non-ionizing waves, the waves that carry mobile signals, are not able to change the structure of a cell, so don’t cause any cellular damage, and as such don’t cause illness.

Ultra-violet (UV) waves – ie. rays from the sun – sit on the cusp between non-ionizing and ionizing. These are (as we all know and accept every summer!) absolutely harmless unless you have too much, in which case they can be potentially dangerous. UV waves are more than ten times higher frequencies than the highest mmWave frequencies that many articles are using as the basis for their concerns.

What about the weather?
If you’ve read that we won’t be able to predict the weather once 5G is launched, that’s fake news. The radio spectrum frequencies that are reportedly at risk of affecting weather have been used for certain applications in the UK for many years, and this has never been an issue; we’re in close dialogue with Ofcom on this to ensure that remains the case.

Bees and Trees
Finally, there’s also stories of bees dying and more than five million trees being cut down for 5G. Again these are all fake news stories, based on no facts and simply untrue.

What’s next?
We’re building 5G to help keep our customers connected to what matters to them most. 5G will bring a faster, more reliable connection - it will be the best mobile experience UK consumers have ever had. We take all health concerns seriously, and we’ll continue to monitor all legitimate research into 5G and keep liaising with community groups that are concerned about 5G.

Where can I find out more?
Find out more information on the matter from the NHS website.

Join the 5G conversation and tell us what you think in the EE Community >

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