I have been inundated with complaints from various people on the health hazards of electromagnetic (EM) radiation from 5G networks. Several videos are circulating on social media platforms about the potential health hazards of electromagnetic radiation from 5G networks. I have written about this topic in the past but feel obliged to write about it again, in simpler terms.
In communication networks, there are two modes, the uplink and the downlink. The uplink, as the name implies, describes the communication path that allows your mobile phone’s antenna to communicate with a base station antenna, as depicted in figure 1 below, whereas the downlink represents the communication path through which the base station antenna communicates with your mobile phone.
Fig1. Uplink (the featured image above)
Fig2: Schematic showing uplink and downlink modes
As depicted in figure 2, during the uplink, your mobile phone acts as the transmitter whereas the base station antenna serves as the transmitter, for the downlink.
The videos being circulated online expressed concerns about the EM radiation from 5G networks. This represents the downlink part of the communication system. Base stations are antennas that radiate energy in specific (or certain) directions. There are low levels of radiation exposure that are considered less harmful/safe for humans. Now, there will always be radiation exposure from antennas, what matters is if the radiation exposure is less harmful for humans? The World Health Organization (WHO) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have endorsed the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) to develop the international electromagnetic radiation exposure guidelines. These guidelines define the maximum exposure for people exposed to electromagnetic radiation up to 300 GHz; these guidelines are strictly adhered to by member countries, when deploying base station antennas. Please check the ICNIRP website for those interested in the details of the guidelines.
The uplink part (see Figure 1) is usually often neglected by mobile phone users’ but it is actually the most dangerous part of the communication modes because the phone is very close to the body (as shown in figure 1). As I mentioned previously, all antennas radiate energy; including your mobile phone’s antenna. Your mobile phone’s antenna serves as the transmitter during the uplink and radiates energy which is easily absorbed by your body (or head) because of the close proximity between your mobile device and the head (as shown in Figure 1). This is one of the reasons why researchers recommend the use of earphones during mobile phone conversation to reduce exposure.
Now, the videos being circulated online should be scientifically investigated by the relevant authorities. If the radiation exposure from any base station antenna is above the ICNIRP guidelines, such base station antenna ought to be removed. But it is important that these issues are reported to the relevant authorities and communication engineers are allowed to investigate these claims, by carrying out radiation tests rather than accepting the claims made within these videos without determining the authenticity of such claims. GSMA, in this link, had also addressed this issue.
Note: there are various ways of reducing EM radiation e.g. reducing power of the antenna, adaptive beam-forming etc.