Could 5G’s High Frequency Be Dangerous?

5G may be the next generation of mobile internet that could provide new and innovative opportunities and boost to new industries, but there have been some concerns that its high-frequency mmWave spectrum could pose new health risks.

Long-Held Concerns

Ever since there have been mobile phones, there have always been concerns that prolonged exposure to low-energy, non-ionising electromagnetic radiation radio waves, the type used by current mobile phones, could increase a person’s risk of health problems such as developing cancerous brain tumours. This radio frequency (RF) radiation does not have enough energy to ionise an atom or molecule, and therefore, is unlikely to have enough energy to damage cell DNA in a way that would cause cancer.  This is the reason why recent research has shown that it is now believed to be unlikely that radio waves from mobile phones or base stations could increase the risk of any health problems.

Even though it is now generally accepted that normal use of current generation mobile phones is relatively safe, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has still given a cautious classification of RF radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.

What’s Different About 5G?

5G is different because it will use 3 Spectrum bands, low-band spectrum (LTE), mid-band spectrum, and what some believe to be the potentially dangerous mmWave high-frequency spectrum.

The mmWave spectrum, however, is still not close to the kind of ionising wavelengths that can cause damage to DNA.  In fact, mmWave high-frequency spectrum technology appears to be quite some way from the maximum human RF absorption frequency of about 70MHz. Also, mmWave will mostly be deployed in a spectrum that suffers from high reflection rates - 24 to 29GHz.  This should mean that any absorption by the body will be confined to the surface layers of the skin rather than the deeper tissue that is reached by lower frequency radiation.

So, Is It Safe?

Based on the science of radiation, and current evidence and limits relating to mobile phone use, there’s nothing to directly suggest 5G mmWave poses a significant health risk, but 5G is not here and in popular use yet, so more research will need to be done on the subject in future.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

5G represents a great opportunity for business.  Its increased speed and lower latency allow the downloading of films and games in seconds and watching them without any buffering, and this kind of speed will allow all kinds of new opportunities for presentation media e.g. in advertising, on social media and on websites.

Many different types of businesses could benefit from improved connectivity with remote workers or with salespeople in remote areas.

Also, the news from an O2 forecast is that 5G could deliver time savings that could bring £6 billion a year in productivity savings in the UK and that 5G-enabled tools and smart items could save UK householders £450 a year in food, council and fuel bills.

Safety, however, is a major concern for all businesses, but even though 5G will use a higher frequency, there is no compelling evidence to date to show that it would pose new health risks to users.  In the UK, it will be some time before 5G networks are up and running to any significant level, and this means that there will be time for research to be conducted in areas where 5G use is at a more advanced stage.