• What is 5G?

    5G is the latest generation mobile phone technology, the successor to 4G. In addition to providing much more capacity for data and video, it will support a wide range of new applications such as remote health services and driverless cars.

    It has a range of additional technical capabilities designed to provide more bandwidth and enable applications to respond faster. It will operate on radio frequencies that are not currently in use for mobile phone networks.

    As with previous cellular technologies, 5G networks rely on signals carried by radio waves – part of the electromagnetic spectrum – transmitted between an antenna or mast and your phone.

    We’re surrounded by electromagnetic radiation all the time – from television and radio signals, as well as from a whole range of technologies, including mobile phones, and from natural sources such as sunlight.

    5G uses higher frequency waves than earlier mobile networks, allowing more devices to have access to the internet at the same time and at faster speeds.
    These waves travel shorter distances through urban spaces, so 5G networks require more transmitter masts than previous technologies, positioned closer to ground level.

  • Who is responsible for ensuring that 5G is safe?

    In the UK, Public Health England (PHE) takes the lead on public health matters associated with radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, or radio waves, used in telecommunications. Central to PHE advice is that exposures to radio waves should comply with the ICNIRP guidelines.

    ICNIRP is the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, which is formally recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO).

    5G networks are licensed and strictly regulated by Ofcom within public health guidelines that are set by Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

    In addition, the UK’s mobile industry has made a voluntary commitment to comply with international guidelines and to provide certificates of compliance with planning applications for mobile base stations.

  • What does the Government say?

    The Government team involved in 5G trials have issued the following comment in response to queries about 5G health impacts:

    A considerable amount of research has been carried out on radio waves and we anticipate no negative effects on public health. Public Health England’s (PHE’s) Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards (CRCE) takes the lead on public health matters associated with radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, or radio waves, used in telecommunications.

    Central to PHE advice is that exposures to radio waves should comply with the guidelines published by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). ICNIRP is formally recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO).

    Some 5G technology will use similar frequencies to existing communications systems. Other 5G technology will work at higher frequencies, where the main change would be less penetration of radio waves through materials, for example walls.

    While a small increase in overall exposure to radio waves is possible when 5G is added to the existing network, the overall exposure is expected to remain low and well within the ICNIRP guidelines.

    ICNIRP guidelines apply up to 300 GHz, well beyond the maximum (few tens of GHz) frequencies under discussion for 5G.

    A summary of PHE advice on radio waves can be accessed in the following link: www.gov.uk/government/collections/electromagnetic-fields#radio-waves

    This guidance includes specific advice on 5G, which was updated in October 2019:
    www.gov.uk/government/publications/5g-technologies-radio-waves-and-health

    PHE is committed to monitoring the evidence applicable to this and other radio technologies, and to revising its advice, should that be necessary.

  • Where can I get further information?

    PHE is responsible for identifying and protecting the public from health hazards, which they do through research and by sharing information and expertise. Information about PHE’s role and responsibilities can be found here: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/public-health-england#content

    A summary of PHE advice on radio waves can be accessed in the following link: www.gov.uk/government/collections/electromagnetic-fields#radio-waves

    The ICNIRP guidelines, can be found here: www.icnirp.org

    Radio spectrum in the UK is regulated by Ofcom: www.ofcom.org

    The Health and Safety Executive advice can be found here: www.hse.gov.uk/radiation/nonionising/faqs.htm

    The UK MNOs publish their policies in relation to mobile phones, masts and public health on their websites.