Rolling out 5G in India: knowing the harmful impact

Years have gone by since the discussion on 5G roll out in India commenced. The Indian government has been procrastinating the auction of radio frequency (RF) bands which are meant to be used for 5G technology. Trials for 5G services in India were initially scheduled for January 2019 but got delayed on modalities such as pricing and tenure. On 30 Dec 2019, the then Telecommunication (telecom) Minister announced that the regulators are going to conduct trials for 5G rollout and asked for fresh bids from telecom companies within 10 days (by 10 January 2020). As on date trials may have been conducted by operators but the band allocation to operators is yet to happen.

The euphoria amongst the telecom industry of 5G launch in India is palpable; similar to the one seen when for the first time 2G, 3G and 4G technologies were deployed in the country. The 1.3 billion Indian population may be a little slow in adopting a new technology but is very quick to adapt to it. The existing wholesale and retail market makes it easy to induct and adopt the technology change for the tech savvy Indian populace. Within no time the 5G technology has the potential to earn billions not only for the operators but also generate substantial revenue for the government.

The 5G technology, no doubt, will mean larger channels, growth and faster processing of data, use of artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and big data mining. The exponential responsiveness and the ability to connect a host of devices from a single location, will be useful in varied fields such as telemedicine, intelligence network, surveillance (including facial recognition), satellite coverage, business processing, high level computing in science and research, etc.; – seemingly all for the good of the country. But what is more significant would be its use in video games and entertainment streaming; that would affect the health of the young population of the country.

The 5G associated health hazards is not being discussed at levels where it should be. The population density is much higher in India as compared to the advanced countries where 5G is already in use on a limited basis. As we moved from 2G to 3G to 4G and now to 5G in the days ahead, the frequency band in use has also kept moving up. Higher the frequency, more is the attenuation due to atmospheric condition and screening effect by buildings. What it entails is that the number of cell towers per square kilometer (sq km) also will need to go up. The antennas for 5G would be highly directional as compared to 2G/3G. This would result in the presence of higher concentration of microwaves in populated areas leading to health hazards.

The proliferation of antennas for 5G would be substantially much higher as compared to 4G. So far, the lower frequency bands in range of 2 to 4 Gigahertz (GHz) is being proposed but for best results in 5G, Ku band (20 to 40 GHz) has been tried. This would create health issues of more severe nature. It would be interesting to study the ill effects of such high frequency bands on human health. The Government needs to assign such studies to medical institutions. The Government should also propose strict guidelines for the operators while establishing a 5G antenna network as well as lay down restrictions for use by individuals for entertainment purposes.

It is a known fact that electromagnetic (EM) radiations are useful but also harmful for mankind. While its discrete use for specific purposes is okay but its indiscriminate use is harmful. Many scientists and doctors across many countries have warned the world about 5G health risks. They have gone to the extent of recommending a moratorium on the roll-out of 5G, until potential hazards for human health and the environment have been fully investigated.

Since 5G antenna (base-station) density per sq km will be much higher as compared to 4G, the concentrated RF-EM fields will substantially increase the harmful exposure for humans. 5G will further deploy beam-forming antennas to focus signals more efficiently towards the device in use, rather than having the signal spread in broad directions as in 3G/4G. While 4G was bad enough, 5G takes the side-effects to a whole new level making “5G Cancer” a reality. As compared to 4G’s RF waves that travel along the surface of the skin, 5G’s millimeter (mm) waves are more harmful. When 5G RF waves are emitted, the skin will automatically absorb them, which will naturally cause the skin temperature to rise.

The harmful effects of the higher EM frequencies which span through Ultra-Violet (UV) Rays, X-Rays, Gamma Rays and Cosmic Rays are well known and therefore their use is restricted for medical use in a controlled manner. On the lower band side – the EM radiation leaking through the doors of microwave ovens are carcinogenic, and can cause cancer. Similar conditions would exist with indiscriminate use of 5G. While it would be fair to assume that 5G technology has been tested for risks, the true report is yet to be made public. In India, since 5G is still in its nascent stage, no large-scale testing has been carried out as there is no compelling data on health risks so far nor any talk about it. For a population density as in India, the harmful effects would be unprecedented.

In another 2 to 3 years, every city will have 5G towers and cell stations emitting RF radiations. These devices will be on the top or side of thousands of buildings throughout the country. It will be almost impossible to avoid them. Given how addicted the young population is to their devices, they will tend toward risking health to support their screen-related addictions. So, the wireless industry is not just building an infrastructure that provides faster downloads; it’s also building a RF radiation oven.

Some of the adverse effects that may be experienced by humans post prolonged exposure to 5G RF radiation would include – nausea, hair loss, low energy, damaged organs, neurological disorder (depression), fetal development, fertility (sperm quality), etc; At 5G frequencies, the depth of penetration into biological tissues goes down, so the skin and eyes, rather than the brain, become the main organs of health concern. This needs to be discussed amongst the medical fraternity and should either provide remedial measures or provide guidelines for 5G restricted use.

Additionally, the 5G frequency bands also overlap with radar networks operating in the 2 to 8 GHz (S and C band) frequencies. These radars are being used for Armed Forces air defence systems, air traffic control (ATC) radar network and in commercial aircrafts. 5G will certainly interfere with radar systems and aircraft operations leading to systems interference and their failure – a dangerous situation indeed.

Some of the safety measures which may be adopted include: avoid living near a 4G and 5G cell tower or mini station; plan for directional metal EMF screen, if staying within 100m; Refrain from using cell phone for long periods; avoid keeping cell phone in bedroom while sleeping; when traveling with 5G cell phone, keep it in an EMF protective bag; spread awareness about the wireless harmful effects.

Telecom industry owners and other decision-makers should not ignore the risks to human health and the environment. All governments’ medical agencies should support the development and consideration of medical guidelines for protective measures. In addition, the government should take steps to markedly decrease the current exposure of the public to RF radiations. An educational campaign should be carried out to educate the public about the health risks of exposure to RF radiation, and safe use of the technology, such as the deployment of wired internet in schools.

Thus, on one side the 5G roll out is much awaited by users who will benefit from it the most but on the other the harmful effect that is likely to be caused by it is a cause of concern. The study of these harmful effects should be independent of conflict of interests in terms of direct or indirect ties to the telecom industry.

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