The emergence of 5G has caused a lot of attention among people. In recent months, anti-5G movements have appeared in various countries. Some extreme right-wing groups have even developed conspiracy theories that link 5G to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some militants even set fire to Belgium, the Netherlands, and recently the telecommunications tower in Quebec. A couple in Sainte-Adèle was formally accused of setting fire to two cell phone towers. It is said that they were behind a fire that blew up at least seven towers in the northern suburbs of Montreal.
A false news about 5G is spreading on social networks at lightning speed, influenced by celebrities and exacerbating fears that people have doubts about the potential health effects of 5G.
For example, these conspiracy theories believe that the virus spread from the epicenter of the pandemic in Wuhan, China, and is related to a large number of 5G towers in the city.
The 5G network has not even been fully deployed there. Other theories incorrectly claim that radio waves from 5G infrastructure will weaken our immune system.
The World Health Organization (WHO) must warn the public about misinformation about the 5G telephone network, insisting that the network will not spread COVID-19 and that the virus will not spread through radio waves or mobile networks. Moreover, COVID-19 is spreading in many countries that do not even have 5G mobile networks.
A revolutionary technology?
The 5th-generation wireless communication technology, 5G, is expected to better cope with the expected surge in global data traffic in the next few years. In addition to improving the technical capabilities of 4G networks, the new standard also spans the ultimate frontier necessary for large-scale, synchronous communication between machines.
The impact of 5G includes accelerating industry automation, the introduction of self-driving cars, the development of smart cities, telemedicine, and remote surgery. All three factors will make this possible: improve connection speed by improving the use of high-frequency bands, reducing latency, and using next-generation infrastructure (such as small directional antennas).
These antennas with signal relays can be integrated into street fixtures, buildings, transportation, and utilities to support target signal distribution. Considering the potential and actual risks and impacts on human health, what is the social cost of these new hyper-connected devices?
Deploy in Canada
Considered by the Canadian Information and Communications Technology Commission (ICTC) as the “last waterfront property,” Canada’s 5G deployment is in the pre-commercial stage. It will take months for Canadians to benefit from the innovative services and uses related to technology.
Since the end of 2019, major telecommunications companies have announced their network construction and equipment manufacturer choices. Rogers cooperated with Swedish giants Ericsson, Vidéotron, and South Korea’s Samsung. Bell chose Nokia in Finland, and Telus established a partnership with Huawei in China.
It should be noted that the federal government has not authorized Canadian suppliers to use Huawei equipment. Considering allegations of espionage against Huawei, this is a sensitive issue, and Huawei is suspected of having links with the Chinese government.
Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver, and the escalation of diplomatic tensions between Canada and China put Ottawa in an awkward position.
The results of the national security threat investigation are still pending to determine whether Huawei is allowed to participate in 5G operations in Canada. An Angus Reid Institute (Angus Reid Institute) released a poll in late December 2019 that most Canadians (69%) hope that Chinese telecommunications giants will not play any role in the deployment of 5G mobile technology in Canada. This disagreement was maintained in another survey released in February.
Besides, due to the popularity of COVID-19, there may be delays in frequency allocation and 5G network establishment. The latest “Ericsson Mobility Report” estimates that the 5G market will not take off until 2021, and predicts that subscribers worldwide will exceed 1 billion by 2023.
All objects of fear
The use of 5G has become a controversial issue that clearly shows the concerns of society. This is not the first time and it will not be the last, because people are irrational fears about the uncertainty of risks that are considered to be intrusive technologies, thus challenging technological progress.
However, the overwhelming enthusiasm of technology enthusiasts and other “early adopters” of technological innovation should not cause us to fall into “technical solutionism”, which views 5G as new life-saving technology.
On the other hand, suspicion of technology phobias and opposition to 5G activists and conspiracy seekers must not put us in a collective delusion. Between these two extremes, we suggest a third approach: reshape the relationship between society and technology in a rational way.
Now is the time for companies, public institutions, and citizens to question the challenges, opportunities, drawbacks, and advantages brought about by the widespread digitization of society. The deployment of 5G is part of this process, representing both new challenges and opportunities for social progress.
The hope of digital transformation can be accepted without ignoring the necessary precautions for health and the environment. We must not fall into technology determinism and think that we have no power over these technologies.
No harm to human health
Several scientists are concerned about the possible effects of equipment connected to 5G networks when exposed to electromagnetic fields. Some studies have reported symptoms observed in “electrically sensitive” populations, such as stress, headaches, heart problems, and impaired cognitive function (memory, attention, coordination ability) in children.
However, there is currently no scientifically proven diagnostic method, and it is still impossible to establish a causal relationship between these unexplained symptoms and exposure to electromagnetic fields.
A study validated by WHO and health authorities in several countries, including Canada, concluded that because national and international standards limit exposure to radio frequencies, 5G will not pose a threat to human health.
As we all know, electromagnetic waves (such as those emitted by microwave ovens, household appliances, computers, wireless routers, mobile phones, and other wireless devices) are non-ionizing. Unlike X-rays or ultraviolet rays, their function is insufficient to reach human cells and affect our immune system.