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IET gives 5G a clean bill of health

17 July 2020

UK engineers and technologists have found 5G to be just as safe as 4G, 3G and Global System for Mobile communication (GSM), quashing misinformation and conspiracy theories that surround the latest mobile technology.

Findings from the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) new report – Allaying health concerns regarding 5G and exposure to radio waves – found that 5G technology is very similar to 4G in terms of radio wave exposure and that its pulsed signals are the same as GSM, Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) phones and a version of 4G.

The report looked at the safety standards of 5G, finding that there has been no exemption for 5G. This means it will have to meet the same safety standards as 4G, 3G and GSM, making it just as safe. Ofcom has proposed new licence conditions to ensure companies meet the safety standards, and it also carries out regular site testing. The report also looked into the frequency that 5G uses, which had sparked some concerns, and found that “higher frequency” (mmWaves) commercial 5G mobile antennas are not being deployed in the UK, and none are currently planned.

The report, however, does highlight the difficulty in finding Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) values on 5G smartphones. SAR is a measure of the rate at which energy is absorbed per unit mass by a human body when exposed to a radiofrequency electromagnetic field. This is a consumer choice issue and not a safety issue. The SAR value data that was gathered for a number of 5G smartphones in the UK did show that all were compliant, and some were significantly under the recommended maximum safety standard.

Professor Will Stewart, Chair of the IET’s Digital Communications Policy Panel, said: “In recent months, 5G has been subject to an ‘infodemic’ of misinformation and conspiracy theories that has reached such a crescendo – and when this happens, it becomes a real challenge to get to the root of what started it all and separate fact from fiction. This IET report aims to separate the hoaxes from sincere concerns expressed that 5G might be harmful and to investigate those concerns.

“Having done that, we have found 5G to be just as safe as 4G, 3G and GSM and hope to have cleared up substantial misunderstandings. Going forward, the mobile phone industry needs to make SAR values for their products more accessible to facilitate consumer choice for those who may still be worrying from misinformation.”

The full report: Allaying health concerns regarding 5G and exposure to radio waves is available at theiet.org/5G-health.


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