The electromagnetic energy (EME) produced as a result of using 5G is much the same as many household items, Australia’s two largest telcos have said.
The pair have added that the use of small cells is also not a cause for concern.
“EME in the home from mobile networks is typically below those emitted by standard household devices such as a microwave oven or baby monitor,” Optus wrote in a submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications Inquiry into 5G.
“Some of these concerns are being fuelled by false and alarmist claims from unreliable sources. Both industry and government need to work harder to counter any misinformation and ensure that the community is armed with the facts to enable it to embrace the technology that will bring so many benefits to people’s lives.”
Testifying to the committee last week, Telstra said small cells provide faster connections and better response times at lower EME levels.
“Leading up to the public launch of 5G with the 3.5GHz network…. What we found again was that they were getting a much faster response time, because the network was quicker and you could deliver the signal quicker,” Telstra principal of 5G EME strategy Mike Wood said.
“That meant that the signal was lower and the EME levels were lower — in fact, they were very similar to 3G, 4G and WiFi.”
Echoing the thoughts on EME levels being similar to household items, Wood said 5G EME was similar to walkie-talkies, WiFi hotspots, key tags, and remote controls.
“What we find is that because 5G’s very efficient, it typically runs at a lower level than an everyday device in your house like a baby monitor or a microwave oven,” he said.
“When we’ve done our tests on our 5G network, they’re typically 1,000 to 10,000 times less than what we get from other devices. So when you add all of that up together, it’s all very low in terms of total emission. But you’re finding that 5G is in fact a lot lower than many other devices we use in our everyday lives.”
Wood added there is no evidence for cancer or non-thermal effects from radio frequency EME.
“There’s some evidence for biological effects, but none of these are non-adverse,” Wood told the committee.
“So they’ve really looked at all of the research they need to set a safety standard, and in summary what they said is that, if you follow the guidelines, they’re protective of all people, including children.”
On the issue of governmental revenue raising from its upcoming spectrum sale, Optus said it would be wrong of government to view it as a cash cow, as every dollar spent on spectrum is not used on creating networks.
“Critically, in order to achieve the coverage and deployment required, 5G networks will require significant amounts of spectrum,” the Singaporean-owned telco wrote.
“Government risks stifling the deployment of 5G networks … if it focuses too heavily on the money obtained through allocations rather than on the economic (not to mention social) value created by the use of the spectrum.”
Last year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) told Senate Estimates that spectrum sales should be less concerned about making money from spectrum and more concerned about providing the best value for consumers.
“Our view at the ACCC has always been we’re not so much concerned with the money raised from spectrum; we just want to make sure the spectrum can go to players so that they can operate in the market and be competitive in the market,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said at the time after Labor questioned the dollar figure the spectrum was sold for.
Also speaking last week, the Queensland Water Directorate as well as Seqwater noted a number of issues they have with telco equipment located on their water towers, including not being able to switch off equipment in emergencies without violating the Federal Criminal Code.
“It’s very hard when we’ve got a lot of overcrowding on some of these towers and we have a number of unknowns and we cannot locate the owners,” Seqwater legal counsel Carmel Serratore said.
“In particular, in circumstances where carriers have actually plugged into our main switchboard and we can’t do isolations, it can become problematic in emergencies and things like that. I understand it comes from the old Criminal Code, and the legislation is probably a bit out of date.”
In its submission, Seqwater called for a process whereby it should be able to remove unknown equipment after “genuine efforts” have been made to locate the owner, as well as notifying ACMA.
Queensland Water Directorate CEO David Cameron pointed out the issue the mobile equipment can have on maintenance of water assets.
“It’s ironic. At the end of the day, both are essential services when you’re dealing with cyclones or major events or whatever it might be,” he said.
“But at those times, when things get hectic, they can almost be competing services, if you can’t manage the power issues for the telecommunications and you can’t fix a hole in a reservoir roof.”
In an earlier submission to the committee, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) said the use of higher frequencies in 5G does not mean higher exposure levels.
“Current research indicates that there is no established evidence for health effects from radio waves used in mobile telecommunications. This includes the upcoming roll-out of the 5G network. ARPANSA’s assessment is that 5G is safe,” the agency said.
If exposed to energy levels 50 times higher than the Australian standard, heating of tissue can occur, such as when welding or exposed to AM radio towers, but that is why safety precautions are taken, ARPANSA said.
The submission also reiterated the scientific fact that radio waves are non-ionising, and cannot break chemical bonds that could lead to DNA damage.
ARPANSA struck out at bogus science circulated online as not having balance, cherry-picking data, and not taking a weight of evidence approach.
“No single scientific study, considered in isolation, will provide a meaningful answer to the question of whether or not radio waves can cause (or contribute to) adverse health effects in people, animals or the environment,” the submission said.
Some 65% of the world’s population will have 5G coverage by end-2025, which networks will handle 45% of all mobile data traffic.
Australia’s incumbent telco also turns on 5G for 15 more regional centres in NSW, Victoria, and Queensland.
South Korea has currently allocated 2,680MHz for 5G use but aims to add up to another 2,640MHz by 2026.
Three years of declining smartphone sales are expected to reverse next year as consumers buy into the 5G market.
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