EMF and 5G: policymakers seek to change the narrative
Mar 06, 2020 by Manuel R. Marti


Tags5G, ARCEP, EMF, European Commission

It’s now pretty obvious that there is widespread concern about the deployment of 5G small cells in residential areas.

A quick Google search reveals hundreds of websites, blogs and news stories arguing that using higher frequencies increases the risk of health problems related to exposure to radiofrequency emissions.

The problem is that this is not just the work of activists or conspiracy theorists. Some cities like Brussels and town authorities in the USA are blocking 5G cell sites in certain areas, citing alleged health concerns.

According to the New York Times, the Russia Today TV network – which has been criticised for being a mouthpiece for President Putin but attracts millions of views on YouTube – has played a large role in popularising claims that 5G causes brain cancer, infertility or even Alzheimer’s disease. Regardless of who is behind it, the fear is now entrenched and overcoming it will be no easy task.

This time last year, I was trying to write a piece on EMF [electromagnetic fields] and 5G and almost no one in the telecoms industry wanted to talk about it. It felt almost like a taboo subject.

There now seems to be a growing impetus to change all that. One important way to dent the hostile narrative is to show the results of real-life tests from 5G base stations. 

Studies carried out by French regulator Arcep in the 3.5 GHz band, for example, suggest that EMF levels are not as high as feared. Similarly, UK regulator Ofcom recently published the results from the first UK safety tests of 5G base stations, revealing that radiation levels are at “tiny fractions” of safe limits.

At pan European-level, the European Commission suggested last month that it was working on measures to harmonise and improve communications with EU citizens on this very sensitive matter, in a bid to fight misinformation.

None of this may actually stop the social-media-fuelled conspiracy theory vortex that allows health scares to thrive, but it does at least enable people to see the full picture.•


  • Mike M says:

    My experience while working at FCC has been that many EMF/RF safety complains from neighbors are correlated with needlessly ugly infrastructure resulting from sloppy design & installation.

    5G is fundamentally different from early generation in both a large increase of the number of base stations required and with antennas being much lower than in the previous generation to allow larger spectrum reuse.  The cables connecting electronics and antennas then become much more critical for the aesthetics of such installations and techniques that we acceptable for antennas 20+m off the ground, may not be acceptable on antennas closer to eye level at 10m or less.

    See my article at https://www.dropbox.com/s/p91mvtrnsdlc4gk/Antennas%20February%20copy.pdf?dl=0