By Kristof Itana
The next generation of wireless communication networks and services is in our midst. New figures from Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) Intelligence shows that the journey of commercial deployment of the fifth generation of wireless broadband, known as Fifth Generation (5G) wireless technology has already begun in the sub-Sahara Africa with South Africa being the first country in the region to launch 5G and had since been joined by handful of countries such as Botswana, Zimbabwe, Seychelles, Mauritius, and Madagascar.
Furthermore, many operators across the sub-Sahara Africa are either planning or testing 5G technology or are already in the deployment stage. Namibia is no exception, on 29 September 2023 the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) awarded spectrum for 5G to various telecommunications service providers through what is known as spectrum auction to fulfil rollout obligations aimed at ensuring communications service in all corners of Namibia. Subsequently, CRAN also launched a 5G Consumer Awareness Campaign focusing on educating consumers on the benefits of 5G technology and dispelling myths and misinformation around 5G.
At present, most telecommunication sources currently operate at frequencies below 6 GHz, including radio and TV broadcasting and wireless sources such as local area networks and mobile telephony. With the increasing demand for higher data rates, better quality of service and lower latency to users. 5G wireless communications networks are planned to operate at frequencies above 6 GHz and into the “millimetre wave” range (30 – 300 GHz). Frequencies above 6 GHz have been in use for many years in various applications such as radar, microwave links, airport security screening and in medicine for therapeutic applications. However, the planned use of the aforesaid Radio Frequency (RF) to deploy wireless communications networks, particularly the 5G of wireless networks, has given rise to public concern about any possible adverse effects to human health. This article discusses the main difference between 5G and previous technologies e.g., 2G, 3G and 4G, as well as debunking the myths around the potential 5G health risks.
What are the main differences between 5G and previous technologies e.g., 2G, 3G, 4G etc?
5G represents an evolution in telecommunication standards. 5G uses higher frequencies than previous wireless network technologies, making it 100 times faster and more efficient than its predecessors 2G, 3G and 4G. 5G is designed to provide more connectivity than was ever available before, with an extended capacity to enable next-generation user experiences, empower new deployment models and deliver services that will impact every industry making e-government, e-agriculture, e-heath, digitalised logistics and many more a reality. Furthermore, the radiation emitted by 5G will largely be the same as previous wireless networks technologies (2G, 3G and 4G), except that it will be exposing us to something called “millimetre waves“ for the first time, that are not capable of penetrating past the skin, thus no consequences for public health are anticipated.
What are the potential health risks from 5G?
Since the release of 5G technology, many conspiracy theories claiming that 5G can spread the Coronavirus SARS-COV-2 which causes the condition COVID-19 has been making the rounds on social media. The myth supposedly gained traction with some people believing that electromagnetic radiation, like those produced by 5G have negative health effects and are somehow the cause of COVID-19, cancer, or any other ailments. This is false, there is no proof that the Electromagnetic Frequencies (EMFs) or 5G affects your risk of developing viral infections. To date, and after much research performed by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection and, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, through the International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety, there is no evidence that 5G causes any of these ailments. No adverse potential health effect related to COVID-19, cancer or any other ailments has been causally linked with the exposure to frequencies used by 5G wireless technology. Suffice to say, 5G technology shall not harm public health. Similarly, all equipment to be utilised for 5G deployment meets local and international standards and shall be subjected to Type Approval by CRAN to ensure public safety.
- 5G is a wireless network technology that provides faster wireless communications, thus opening up a true digital evolution that will enable the benefits of 5G across different industry e.g., Communications, Agriculture, Health, Education, Transport, etc.
- Currently, there are no solid evidence that 5G causes negative health effects in humans or animals. 5G technology, is not associated with contracting SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 or make you more susceptible to viral infections or any other ailments.
Kristof Itana is Manager: Technology and Standards at the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN)