Health risks from 5G technologies deployment

Devon County Council statement on health risks from 5G technologies deployment – October 2019

The County Council draws on the advice and guidance provided by Public Health England (PHE) regarding the health and safety of mobile technologies including 5G.

PHE continues to monitor the health-related evidence applicable to radio waves, including in relation to base stations, and is committed to updating its advice as required. PHE has recently composed a new study on 5G technologies (Oct 2019). This concludes that when 5G is added to a network there is a slight increase to overall exposure of radio waves. However, it is advised that the overall exposure is expected to remain low and therefore should have no consequence for public health.

Public Health England (PHE) advises the Government on appropriate public health standards for protection from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs), or radio waves. PHE’s main advice is that the guidelines of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) should be adopted and there is no convincing evidence that exposures below the ICNIRP guideline levels cause adverse health effects. ICNIRP is formally recognised as an official collaborating non-governmental organisation by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization. ICNIRP is also consulted by the European Commission. Advice from PHE includes comprehensive scientific review reports and statements on topics.

In terms of future deployments of mobile infrastructure and in particular 5G mobile it is our understanding that there are effectively two forms of 5G. The first will utilise sub 10GHz spectrum (operating in very similar frequencies to current 3G and 4G services). All current UK 5G plans from mobile network operators are solely related to sub 10GHz spectrum technologies, as this is the only spectrum that Ofcom has licenced. This spectrum has very similar characteristics to current mobile communications technologies that have been in use for 30 years and has also been previously granted use for radio and TV broadcasts.

The second will utilise 24GHz -300GHz spectrum, the so-called millimetre wave frequencies associated with more revolutionary 5G aspects (such as 1-10Gbps+ speeds and low latency connections). When it comes to the higher frequency (millimetre wave) spectrum, not only has Ofcom yet to set a date for running an auction for this spectrum, the practical reality of using such spectrum’s remains to be proven.

Ofcom is still consulting on the potential uses of millimetre wave spectrum and is expected to announce its plans for the first limited range of 26GHz spectrum later this year. However, it does not appear that Ofcom expects such spectrum to be used in traditional ways associated with mobile technologies.

The County Council is not involved with mobile infrastructure planning applications, this is a district council responsibility as part of the planning authority remit. Where street furniture is concerned, we are not aware of any Council assets that are currently hosting mobile network operators 5G technologies, but we would review any such request from mobile network operators in accordance with government guidance and PHE guidance.

As a County Council, we have no current plans to make use of 5G in our ICT roadmap to 2020.

Further advice from Public Health England can be found here.