Hold onto your tin foil hats folks, what I’m about to tell you might just blow your mind.
I’ve had a lot of conversations about 5G and the perceived “dangers” of 5G over recent months. Rightly so, it’s a new technology, and people have every right to ask the question – is 5G safe?
So here’s the rub. It is.
How do we know this? Well, I went to Telstra’s primary testing ground for 5G – The Gold Coast – to check it out.
Let’s go through the basics first.
What is Electromagnetic Energy?
Electromagnetic Energy (EME for short) is everywhere around us, the Sun, the Earth itself are all natural source of EME.
But of course when it’s discussed in a health sense we’re hearing mainly about WiFi, or Mobile towers which use EME to transmit and receive information.
As does TV and Radio broadcasting.
All around us is EME – in fact, aside from those natural sources – it’s unavoidable unless you’re living without WiFi and outside of all the TV and Radio broadcast areas.
What about the Radiation?
Big word that – Radiation – your first thought is nuclear meltdowns right? Fair call – but radiation is just the emotion or transmission of energy waves.
What matters is whether that radiation is “Ionising” or “non-ionising”
Non-Ionising radiation cannot break molecular bonds. Ionising radiation can do, and can cause DNA damage, and is potentially cancer causing.
The ionising or non-ionising nature of radio waves depends on the radio frequency in use across the EME spectrum.
Show me the spectrum
Ok, here’s a simplified look at the Electromagnetic Spectrum
Those magnets in your house – they are part of the EME spectrum.
X-Rays, that vital medical technology – on the EME spectrum.
The really important part of the spectrum to look at is that middle section – from TV & Radio, through to Mobile phone towers and Satellite.
We are surrounded, in fact we are being bombarded by satellite signals. Think about your Foxtel service, one Satellite in space is beaming down radio waves which dishes on rooftops across Australia are able to pickup.
So standing on the street, those waves are hitting you.
How does 5G Compare to 3G and 4G?
It’s almost identical, using the same amount of EME to work as the existing mobile networks.
It’s important to know that in fact the better your service – the stronger your signal – the less the EME, because your phone isn’t working as hard to draw in the signal.
But 5G uses a higher frequency!
Well, no, in Australia, at the moment, 5G is using the same frequencies as the existing mobile networks.
The move to what’s called “millimetre wave” or mmWave spectrum will change that.
But mmWave too is well within that standard current operating area of EME – we’re surrounded by micro-wave transmission and satellite transmission that use even higher frequencies than 5G ever will.
There will be hundreds more mobile towers!
For this first generation of 5G, nothing really changes – the current Telstra setup for example is to upgrade a 4G tower to the latest 4G (all the generations of mobile tech improve year on year), then add a 5G cell to that tower.
Concerns about the number of “towers” comes from the future mmWave 5G transmission. This will most likely utilise what are known as “Small Cells”. These small 5G cells or towers might sit on light posts, or street corners. However, they are much much lower power, so in fact your exposure to EME will be lower still than the current mobile networks.
Small Cells are essentially the same as WiFi network routers we have in our homes
But is it safe?
There is 50 years of scientific research on EME and its impacts on health.
The World Health Organisation says “there is no evidence that exposure to low level EME is harmful to human health”.
Australia’s own ARPSANA says “there are no established health effects from the radio waves that the 5G network uses”.
The World Health Organisation have some very clear standards about exposure to EME – Telstra showed me the equipment they use ($150,000 a pop) to scan and test for EME in the environment, something they’ve done in countless locations across Australia.
The 3G, 4G AND the 5G signals all fell well below the “Safe” figure.
Let’s consider a reading of 100% the SAFE line on the EME spectrum.
Most of the tests I witnessed put the mobile networks at around 0.01%.
WiFi in most cases was above the mobile networks.
How does it compare to other EME emitting devices?
We put that to the test. Using that same high end equipment, we measured a remote unlock car key, a Microwave Oven, a Baby Monitor, a Walkie Talkie and a 5G device.
The Key Fob came off best, at 0.005% of the safe level.
Next up was 5G at 0.01%.
A Microwave Oven (which is fully insulated of course) came in at 0.03%.
Perhaps most surprisingly a simple Baby Monitor came in at 0.3% while the Walkie Talkie fared worse at 3%.
The Walkie Talkie though is a blip, only in use when transmitting.
A Baby Monitor? That thing is on for hours and hours and hours sitting right next to your baby and probably right next to your bedside.
And it’s transmitting EME at a rate 0.3% of the W.H.O defined safe level.
So relax. 5G isn’t any different to 4G, 3G, and it’s better for you than a Baby Monitor and probably the same or better than WiFi which is in some cases more widespread and overlapping than our Mobile coverage.
I’m still worried.
That’s cool – nothing wrong with taking precautions.
No doubt, limiting your exposure is something you can control if it worries you. To do that, here’s what I can recommend when it comes to your mobile phone:
- Hold your phone away from your head down at chest level
- Use speakerphone for calls, or a Bluetooth Headset
- Limit the number of calls you take/make
- Limit the length of the calls you take/make.
Trevor Long travelled to the Gold Coast as a guest of Telstra after an overwhelming number of comments regarding 5G safety here at EFTM on our social channels.
Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.
He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.
Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.