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What is 5G?
5G simply refers to the fifth generation of mobile telecommunications technology. The evolution of this technology (2G, 3G etc.) has allowed for improved and faster telecommunications.
How does the network work?
Mobile phones communicate using electromagnetic radiation and electromagnetic waves on a particular part of the electromagnetic spectrum. These waves are a form of non-ionising radiation in the low frequency range of the spectrum like radio and microwaves.
Base stations – required to support the communications network – also operate using non-ionising radiation with frequencies in the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Larger base stations provide the main infrastructure for the network, while smaller base stations provide additional capacity where there are high numbers of users, such as in cities and towns.
5G uses a portion of the spectrum which operates at higher frequencies than current network technologies (around ten times higher, up to a few tens of GHz). Such frequencies have been used for some types of transmitters which have been present in the environment for many years.
Exposure to radio waves
Exposure to radio waves is not new. There are a number of common sources of radio waves in homes and offices such as mobile phones, wi-fi and smart meters. Other sources of radio waves include TV and radio transmissions, radar and satellite communications.
In general, being closer to an antenna results in higher exposures, but the most powerful ones tend to be mounted high up on masts and buildings and are designed to direct most of their power towards the horizon. Exposure levels beneath these antennas is therefore small (the strength of the radio waves from base station antennas decreases very quickly with increasing distance). Those located nearer to street level or within buildings are designed to communicate over short distances and therefore transmit with lower power levels.
Are there health risks associated with the 5G network?
Research into health-related exposure to radio waves has been undertaken over several decades.
Evidence shows that the general public’s exposure to radio waves are well within international health-related guideline levels which are used in the UK. These guidelines are produced by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and are used in health protection policies at UK and European levels. The ICNIRP is formally recognised by the World Health Organisation.
Research has shown that main change in using higher frequencies (those being considered for 5G networks) is that there is less penetration of radio waves into body tissue and absorption of the radio energy (and any consequent heating) becomes more confined to the body surface. The body can accommodate a small increase in heat, in a similar way that excess body heat is dissipated during sporting activities, as it has the ability to regulate its internal temperature.
It is possible that there may be a small increase in the overall exposure to radio waves when 5G is added to the current network or introduced in a new area. However, the overall exposure is expected to remain low when compared to guidelines and there should be no consequences for public health.
Further information about the 5G network, electromagnetic fields and public health can be obtained from the following links.