Misinformation is getting out of hand. 5G is not the problem, people are.
Over the last day, several people have emailed me about reports coming from the UK of people destroying cell towers. Indeed, it’s all over the news media as misinformation spreads that 5G is spreading the coronavirus. The belief that 5G is responsible for the spread of the virus is, well, rubbish.
As engineers, we inherently know that the rollout of 5G has nothing do with the coronavirus. Biological entities simply don’t travel over radio waves. Plus, the novel coronavirus has spread to countries that simply don’t have 5G on any kind, be that sub-6 GHz nor mmWave frequencies. According to VIAVI Solutions (published in February), 5G is only in a handful of countries.
5G is many things, even from a radio perspective. Some telecom carriers are deploying mmWave signals on small cells. mmWave signals are lousy at penetrating buildings and even the skin, dying out in 1-2 mm. Other carriers are using frequencies as low as 600 MHz, which easily penetrate walls and skin. We’ve been exposed to those frequencies for many years. Nothing new here.
Most of the concerns about 5G-related health revolve around the deployment of small cells that use mmWave frequencies around 30 GHz. Signals at these frequencies simply don’t penetrate out skin. China, were COVID-19 was first detected, has focused on sub-6 GHz 5G, but most complaints have been centered around mmWave small cells.
In its 2020 Guidelines for Limiting Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields, the International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection states “Below about 6 GHz, where EMFs penetrate deep into tissue (and thus require depth to be considered), it is useful to describe this in terms of “specific energy absorption rate” (SAR), which is the power absorbed per unit mass (W kg−1). Conversely, above 6 GHz, where EMFs are absorbed more superficially (making depth less relevant), it is useful to describe exposure in terms of the density of absorbed power over area (W m−2), which we refer to as “absorbed power density.” Indeed, the guidelines go on to say that you’d need to be exposed to high power levels (5 kW kg−1) for many minutes to induce any kind of harm. Going further the UK’s Ofcom has taken measurements on RF radiation and concluded that power levels, even those near cellular masts are significantly below any safety limits.
Conspiracy theories surrounding 5G are nothing new. They claim that 5G (and Wi-Fi) is a scam to control our minds and boil us alive. Yes, 2.4 GHz signals can boil water (think microwave ovens) but that takes hundreds of watts at close range. WHO says “To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.”
I even received an e-mail the other day asking “Are you ready now to buy in to the conspiracy theory of the agenda to use 5g technology to reduce the population of the world and control the ones that are left?”
As for 5G spreading COVID-19, there are many conspiracy theories floating around on social media. I did see a video of someone claiming to be a 5G tower installer saying that there’s a direct correlation between the deployment of 5G and the spreading of the coronavirus. One look at his t-shirt was enough to convince me that his claim had no credibility.
The only possible connection between 5G and the COVID-19 is if the installer has the virus and knowingly or unknowingly infects another person. To say that the technology itself spreads the virus is truly fake news.