5G in the Starting Blocks, What is it? What are the Health Risks?

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5G on the starting blocks in France

The conditions of allocation of frequencies of the 5G will be announced: “in the coming days”. This new mobile technology is highly anticipated by operators and manufacturers. What does it bring and are there risks to health?

French telecoms operators will soon be fixed: the bidding for the coveted 5G mobile future will finally become a reality, with the announcement expected “in the next few days” of the conditions of attribution by the government, according to concordant sources.

The goal is to allocate the so-called 3.5 Gigahertz (GHz) frequency band, which is higher on the radio spectrum than the frequencies used so far for mobile telephony. “The stake operators side will be to have the necessary space on the frequency band to absorb the traffic but also have these frequencies at the right price, given the expected level of investment then,” said William Vaquero, an analyst at Wavestone.

The latest frequency allocation for the 700MHz band in 2016 was worth € 2.8 billion, a sum that allowed the socialist government of the day to face exceptional expenses from the Ministry of Defense. .

A promising technology …

For consumers, do not expect a glaring difference in terms of speed, as was the case when moving from 3G to 4G. Operators rely on 5G foremost to manage the increase in traffic and avoid saturation of their mobile networks.

Where 5G is highly anticipated, it is in the industry, since it should accelerate the digitization of plants (especially for the automation of tasks) and transport infrastructure, and thus improve the monitoring of products. and manufacturing processes, allow more predictive maintenance, integrate augmented or virtual reality, etc.

It must also allow the arrival of many innovations: support the connection of all autonomous and connected vehicles, allow the development of e-health (with remote operations, telemedicine, health data transfers, etc. .), connect cities to make them more “intelligent” (flow management, energy saving, rationalization of waste collection, etc.), not to mention uses that have not yet been thought out.

… but uses still to be created

If the promises are there, the uses are not yet certain. The first phase of deployment of 5G will primarily serve to increase the capacity of existing mobile networks. However, new services could gradually appear, around the augmented reality in particular or mobile video game in streaming, some of which predict the explosion. This is what we are starting to see in countries where deployment is a bit more advanced, such as in South Korea or Switzerland.

The second phase of deployment, which will begin best in 2022, is intended to meet the needs of industries in particular.

It is from here that the big promises of the 5G (autonomous car, robotic factories, connected health or remote surgical operators in particular) are expected to materialize. For the moment, however, the sector has not yet agreed on common standards.

Higher bit rate 5G will offer much higher throughput than today’s 4G, with faster access to content and the ability to circulate billions of data without congestion.

Our health in danger?

Mobile phones but also television, radio or WiFi: “despite much research, there is currently no indication that exposure to low-intensity electromagnetic fields is dangerous for human health,” says WHO.

Nevertheless, some studies evoke “a possible increase in the risk of brain tumour, in the long term, for intensive users of mobile phones,” recalls the French health security agency ANSES. For this reason, CIR, the WHO cancer agency, rated radio frequencies as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” in 2011, recommending the hands-free kit for mobile phones.

Biological effects

“The main biological effect of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields is of a thermal nature”, that is to say, the increase in temperature of exposed areas, according to the WHO. “Studies have shown the existence of biological effects on some very specific parameters, such as sleep or tension,” notes Olivier Merckel, ANSES expert.

But, and this point is important, the biological effect does not necessarily mean sanitary effect, that is to say, danger to health. Biological effects are a sign that the body adapts to variations in its environment.

So the question is whether the accumulation of biological effects exceeds the capacity of our body to adapt, which can then have consequences for health.

Beyond that, NGOs opposed to 5G fear that it will make us switch to a world “out of control”: a society where everything will go too fast and where people will be more connected, eyes even more focused on screens.

What is 5G?

Higher bit rate 5G will offer much higher throughput than today’s 4G, with faster access to content and the ability to circulate billions of data without clogging

A different frequency band. To increase the data volume, the 5G will use a higher frequency band than the current mobile telephony: from 3.4 gigahertz first then, eventually, above 26 GHz. But the higher the frequency, the shorter the range of the waves. This is why the deployment of the 5G will require to increase the number of antennas.

Hyperconnectivity. Where the first generation allowed to make calls, the 2G to add text, 3G to start sending images and 4G to develop the mobile Internet and video uses, the 5G will allow all kinds of electronic equipment to be connected together, which will generalize futuristic applications (read below).

Portable in the pockets: ANSES alert

Some mobile phones that went on sale before 2016 must be removed from circulation, or at least updated because they emit too much airwaves and exceed the latest standards when they are worn in the pocket of a jacket, judged yesterday the health agency ANSES.

In question, the SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) of these models, an indicator that evaluates the amount of energy absorbed by the body exposed to waves. The regulations state that this SAR must not exceed the value of 2 watts per kilo (W / kg).

Before 2016, the distance of distance used to measure it could be up to 2.5 cm between the phone and the body. But in April 2016, standards were toughened. For trunk radiation, wave emissions are now measured at 5 mm maximum.

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