Ofcom report finds radiation at UK 5G stations is well within safety limits

  • Ofcom has published the results of its first safety tests at 5G base stations in the UK, finding radiation levels at a tiny fraction of established safe limits.

    5G mobile internet has been rolling out across the developed world this year, offering significantly higher bandwidth and lower roundtrip delays compared to existing 4G connections. While 4G can offer stable 20Mbps connections and response times of around 50ms, providers are now offering 5G services that can give individuals 1Gbps download speeds and 20ms response times.

    The new technology promises to revolutionise more than just how quickly we can download funny cat videos and scroll Facebook on our phones, with applications ranging from remote control of drone systems and massive IoT sensor programmes for environmental monitoring to video game streaming services and cloud PC systems.

    The rollout of 5G has been accompanied by a wave of fear about health problems that people worry it could cause. Online groups have banded together to protest the installation of 5G infrastructure in their cities, claiming that the wavelengths of EM radiation used by the system could cause cancer and other problems. Similar campaigns were seen during the rollout of 4G and before that with the rollout of 3G.

    All mobile technology uses radio waves to transmit information, but the wavelengths used are in the safe non-ionising radiation area of the electromagnetic spectrum. The wavelengths used for 5G are slightly higher than those used for 4G but still carry far less energy than sunlight, and so aren't able to cause damage to human cells. It's the dangerous high-frequency ionising radiation from UV, X, and Gamma rays that can cause damage to DNA that may lead to cancer.

    The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) sets a global standard for the intensity of non-ionising radiation exposure that's considered safe. Ofcom carries out regular EM field tests in cities across the UK to estimate exposure levels to the public from mobile phone masts and other sources, and uses the ICNIRP safe limit as its guideline in reports.

    Ofcom has now published its first safety tests of radiation levels near 5G base stations in cities across the UK, including Belfast. It found that levels in all areas were a tiny fraction of the safe limits established by the ICNIRP, with almost every city facing exposire of less than 1% of the safe limit.

    Highest levels were found in London's Canary Wharf area at 1.5% of the safe limit, but none of this was from 5G as it tested 0.0% field strength in 5G bands. Belfast's Lanyon Place tested a miniscule 0.08% of the safe limit across all wireless bands, with 0.0006% of the safe limit from 5G bands. The highest result found in the 5G band was 0.039% of recommended exposure limits in Birmingham.

    Source: BBC News, Ofcom report

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    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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