When it comes to the future of the so-called Fifth Generation of mobile technology (aka 5G) and its rollout in Gibraltar, there are some concerns.
The Government remains torn between demands for improved, faster technology, and the fear that increased electromagnetic strength in wireless technology poses risks to life, flora and fauna.
Many of us want lightning-fast upload and download speed on our mobile phones, with improved video streaming, and 5G to feed these desires. It is true that much more might be achievable in terms of business, industry, virtual and augmented reality, medical procedures and smart homes and cars. Nevertheless, at what cost? Is it worth risking the health of our planet and ourselves?
Let us look at what research to date has gone into 5G effects on environment and health.
In 2018, a video went viral showing birds dropping like stones from a tree in the Hague. Dead birds littered the floor, and there immediately followed an outcry, blaming EMF (Electro Magnetic Field). According to reports, approximately 300 birds died during 5G testing although these, claim, the tech giants, are conspiracy theories and scaremongering.
The question is whom to believe? Why are people so afraid of 5G? One word: Radiation.
Implementation of 5G technology requires installing new equipment across Gibraltar – 5G poles on the ground, closer to the homes and the population to be scattered across Gibraltar. 5G uses high-frequency waves that support faster speeds but do not travel as far as current wireless frequencies. Therefore, instead of relying on large cell phone towers spread far apart, 5G uses smaller cell sites closer together similar to that of lamp posts. While not so visually intrusive, these small cell towers arguably cause health concerns. Insufficient research has several groups and organisations concerned about this untested technologies.
The tech giants are strong of the opinion that 5G cause no more damage than previous technologies. They claim that the fears are overblown. The argument in favour of 5G draws on the different types of radiation. For example, ionised radiation, the type that comes from the sun and provides powerful gamma and cosmic radiation, the energy required to perform x-rays is considered damaging and cancer forming when overexposed to this type of radiation.
The type of energy required to power the likes of our connected devices, i.e. smartphones and computers, is non-ionising and therefore not considered sufficient to cause damage to health and the environment.
However, the comeback argument points to the millimetre wave technology required to power 5G. Millimetre-wave technology uses far higher frequencies than that used in 3G and 4G and requires a higher amount of masts and towers, and, arguably, more likely to penetrate the skin and cause damage to our DNA. The counterargument is that this high-frequency wave technology does penetrate the skin, but not cause any damage.
So the jury is still out on the possible damage to human life and the environment. Recent tests on rats and mice have proved inconclusive. Some rats did indeed get brain and heart cancer but, due to the extreme levels of concentrated radiation directed at these creatures, far more than that ever directed at humans, deemed the tests inconclusive and controversial. Hence the fear, caused by a lack of conclusive evidence that 5G and its potential to overexposing us to non-ionising radiation cannot hurt us.
Even though mobile phones have been around since the 1980s and subsequent cases of brain tumours have not skyrocketed, this does not provide carte blanche permission to the big tech organisations to proceed to create a blanket of high-frequency radiation across communities where real fear exists, and birds are falling out of trees in front of our eyes.
On the 24th January 2020 at 7 pm, a debate, held jointly by the Environmental Safety Group and Gibtelecom, takes place in the John Mackintosh Hall’s Lecture Room. Register your interest quickly if you want to get involved in this free public debate and find out more about what the ESG has to say about the future of 5G in Gibraltar, as only 45 members of the public are permitted.
The email to register interest is 5Gdebate@gibtelecom.net as from 15th January. Questions are also invited.
Original Content by Tracy Jennifer on behalf of City Guide Gibraltar