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5G and EME

What is 5G?

5G is the 5th generation of mobile technology, a significant evolution of today’s 4G LTE technology.  5G has the potential to transform the way we all live and work. It will deliver more capacity and faster speeds but on top of that it will support vastly more connected devices at low latency.

5G will take us from a world of connecting people to each other and the internet to a world of ultra-fast mobile speeds and the Internet of Things on a mass scale.  These enhancements will unleash a host of new opportunities – everything from smart cities and smart homes, to drones and driverless cars, to augmented reality in both entertainment and at work.

The ‘Connected Community’ illustrates how 5G and wireless communications provide essential communications for Australian communities – image courtesy Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association.

How 5G works – For more detailed information on how 5G works, visit the EMF Explained Series.

In 2018 Telstra opened our new 5G Innovation Centre at our Southport Exchange on the Gold Coast.  The centre is the home for testing the next generation of mobile technology in local conditions to support the early commercial deployment of 5G in Australia.

In 2016, we conducted Australia’s first 5G live field trial and in 2017 the world-first 5G trial data call over 26GHz ‘mmWave’ radio frequency spectrum.

From our new 5G Innovation Centre, we completed a number of other 5G firsts and trials in 2018 to ensure Australia remains at the forefront of mobile technology. In August, Telstra announced it had started switching on 5G technology, making Australia’s largest and fastest* mobile network the first in the country to be 5G ready. Since then Telstra has enabled more than 200 5G sites in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, Launceston, Toowoomba and the Gold Coast.

*based on national average mobile speeds

In 2019, Telstra will continue to roll out 5G technology including our 5G commercial network at 3.5GHz which is in the same radio frequency band as our existing mobile services.  

Telstra has conducted extensive electromagnetic emissions (EME) testing and analysis on the 5G trial network at Southport and commenced EME testing on the new 3.5GHz commercial network base stations.  The test results show EME levels are similar to the existing mobile technologies and well below the EME safety limits.

Telstra presented a summary of the results to the Science and Wireless Conference in November 2018 held by the Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research (ACEBR).   The presentation is available online at https://acebr.uow.edu.au/events/UOW254614     

As Telstra has done with previous generations of mobile technology, Telstra’s new 5G service will be designed to comply with all mandatory EME safety requirements.  Further information on the EME standards is available at the ACMA web site.

5G uses radio waves or radio frequency EME to transmit and receive voice and data – connecting our community.

The frequencies used for 5G are part of the radio frequency spectrum which, for decades, has been extensively researched in terms of health impacts. Over 50 years of scientific research has already been conducted into the possible health effects of the radio signals used for mobile phones, base stations and other wireless services. This research includes the frequencies planned for 5G and mmWave exposures.

The data from this research has been analysed by many expert review groups. Weighing the whole body of science, there is no evidence to convince experts that exposure below the guidelines set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) carries any known health risks, for adults or children. The safety standard in Australia is based on these guidelines.

There is also an extensive, readily accessible database, EMF-Portal (https://www.emf-portal.org/en) of scientific research into the effects of EME, including studies on the effects of radio frequency (RF) on health. It is managed by the RWTH Aachen University, Germany and linked from the World Health Organization (WHO) website.

In terms of research specifically into 5G frequencies, the database lists approximately 350 studies on mmWave EME health related research. Extensive research on mmWave and health has been conducted on radar, microwave and military applications.

 

Telstra relies on the expert advice of a number of national and international health authorities, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), International Commission for Non Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) for overall assessments relating to health and safety.


WHO Information on EME and Health

In relation to radio frequency exposures and wireless technology and health, the general conclusion from the World Health Organization (WHO) is:

“Despite extensive research, to date there is no evidence to conclude that exposure to low level electromagnetic fields is harmful to human health”.

Source: WHO About Electromagnetic Fields – Summary of Health Effects Key Point 6

 

In relation to wireless networks and health, the conclusion from the WHO is:

“Studies to date provide no indication that environmental exposure to RF fields, such as from base stations, increases the risk of cancer or any other disease.”

Source: WHO online Q&A What are the health risks associated with mobile phones and their base stations?

 

ARPANSA Information on EME and Health

In relation to radio frequency exposures and wireless technology and health ARPANSA’s position is:

“Based on current research there are no established health effects that can be attributed to the low RF EME exposure from mobile phone base station antennas” Mobile Phone Base Stations and Health” Fact Sheet August 2016.


ICNIRP Information on EME and Health

In relation to radio frequency exposures and wireless technology and health, ICNIRP provides scientific advice and guidance on the health and environmental effects of non-ionizing radiation (NIR) to protect people and the environment from detrimental NIR exposure.

ICNIRP publishes guidelines to provide protection of humans exposed to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in the range 100 kHz to 300 GHz:  The guidelines state:

The main objective is to establish guidelines for limiting exposure to EMFs that will provide a high level of protection for all people against known adverse health effects from direct, non-medical exposures to both short- and long-term, continuous and discontinuous radiofrequency EMFs.

The safety standard in Australia is based on these guidelines.


More information
- Visit this page for more about 5G and Health. There you’ll find three levels of information – L1 Summary, L2 Detailed and L3 Links.

 

In terms of EME safety standards, the current Australian and international EME human exposure guidelines also apply to 5G.

The human exposure guidelines have been established by independent scientific organizations, such as the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), and include substantial margins of safety to protect all people including children.

The Australian EME safety standard from ARPANSA is called Radiation Protection Series No. 3 and is available here.

The ICNIRP guidelines are available here and are currently under review.

As part of the review of the current ICNIRP Guidelines, ICNIRP has undertaken an extensive review of the available scientific evidence and research on EME and health. ICNIRP presented the results of their extensive review at a United Nations Workshop in Geneva in October 2018 and concluded:

  • The ICNIRP Guidelines are very conservative and include large reduction factors.
  • The ICNIRP Guidelines protect all people including children exposed to radiofrequency EME in the frequency range 100 kHz to 300 GHz.
  • The ICNIRP Guidelines cover the frequencies used for 5G, including mmWave bands. 

A summary from the workshop is available on the UN agency website https://news.itu.int/5g-electromagnetic-field/

In Australia, ARPANSA is also reviewing the Australian EME human exposure guidelines and will be using the results of the ICNIRP review to update the Australian standards.

1. What EME safety standards apply to 5G?
The current Australian and international EME human exposure guidelines apply to 5G. 

The human exposure guidelines have been established by independent scientific organizations, such as the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), and include substantial margins of safety to protect all people including children.

The Australian EME safety standard from ARPANSA is called Radiation Protection Series No. 3 and is available here.

2. Are the EME safety standards current?
Yes.  The EME exposure guidelines from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) and the International Commission for Non Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) are still current.

3. When do the EME safety standards get reviewed?
Both ARPANSA and ICNIRP continually monitor the scientific literature and update the EME exposure guidelines as required.  ARPANSA maintains a radiation literature survey on their web site that provides updates on published literature including articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, scientific-body reports, and conference proceedings.

In 2014 ARPANSA published a review of scientific literature and concluded that the exposure limits in the ARPANSA Standard continue to provide a high degree of protection against the known health effects of EME exposure.  ARPANSA will update the exposure limits following the ICNIRP review.

Since 2014, the Australian and International EME exposure guidelines have been undergoing an extensive review.  As part of the review the International Commission for Non Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has undertaken an extensive review of the available scientific evidence and research on EME and health.

ICNIRP presented the results of their extensive review at a United Nations Workshop in Geneva in October 2018 and concluded:

  • The ICNIRP Guidelines are very conservative and include large reduction factors.
  • The ICNIRP Guidelines protect all people including children exposed to radiofrequency EME in the frequency range 100 kHz to 300 GHz.
  • The ICNIRP Guidelines cover the frequencies used for 5G, including mmWave bands.
     

4. What frequencies is Telstra using for 5G?
The initial radio frequencies that will be used for 5G in Australia are 3.5GHz and 3.6GHz which are in the existing mobile band.  In future years radio frequencies in the mmWave band at 26-28GHz are expected to be used for 5G in Australia.

5. What assurance can Telstra provide that 5G is safe for people?
At Telstra we take our responsibilities regarding the health and safety of our customers and the community very seriously.   We have a dedicated team with responsibility for managing EME compliance and we ensure that all Telstra base stations and devices are designed to meet Australian EME safety standards.

6. What research has been done on 5G and EME?
Research on the possible human health effects of exposure to radio frequencies that will be used for 5G including the millimetre wave frequencies goes back many decades and is continuing.

In terms of research specifically on millimetre wave frequencies, the WHO and EMF Portal database lists approximately 350 studies on mm-wave EMF health related research.

Research on mm-wave and health has been conducted on radar, microwave and military applications.

7. What are millimetre waves?
Millimetre waves refer to radio frequencies in the Extremely High Frequency band from 30GHz to 300GHz.   The wave length at 30GHz is 10mm and at 300GHz is 1mm.  This is the official definition from the International Telecommunications Union.

Frequencies in the 26-28GHz band that will be used for 5G are also referred to as millimetre wave as the wave length is approximately 11mm.

 

8. Are millimetre waves safe?
Safety standards for exposure to radio frequencies including millimetre waves have been established by independent scientific organizations, such as the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).

The EME exposure guidelines include substantial margins of safety to protect all people including children.

 

9. Are millimetre waves absorbed by humans?
Yes.  When people are exposed to radio frequencies including millimetre waves in everyday life, a very small amount that is virtually undetectable is absorbed in the body.  Radio frequencies in the current mobile, TV and radio broadcast bands are absorbed into the body at extremely low levels.  Millimetre waves are also absorbed at extremely low levels into the body but only into the upper layers of the skin due to the very short wave length and typically up to depth of 1-10mm.

10. If millimetre waves are absorbed in the skin, how can it be safe?
The EME exposure guidelines cover all frequencies including millimetre waves.  The exposure guidelines are set to ensure that absorption of the radio frequency signals in the body and skin is well below the safety threshold.

Radio frequency signals in the environment are part of everyday life.  In terms of millimetre waves, the amount of radio frequency signal actually absorbed in the skin from devices, base stations or other radio services is very low, significantly below the threshold that could be detected and well below the safety limits.

11. Is Telstra building new base stations for 5G?
Telstra is upgrading existing facilities for the initial deployment of 5G.  Telstra will continue to upgrade existing facilities and build new base stations as part of the 5G rollout.

12. How many 5G base stations is Telstra proposing?
By the end of 2018 Telstra had enabled more than 200 5G sites in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, Launceston, Toowoomba and the Gold Coast.  During 2019 and 2020 Telstra plans to continue the deployment of 5G at existing base stations as part of the 5G rollout.

13. How will I know when 5G is proposed for my area?
Telstra will be undertaking a range of advertising and community notification activities for the deployment of 5G.   For all new base station deployments and existing site upgrades, Telstra follows the community consultation and notification requirements of Industry Code C564:2018 Mobile Phone Base Station Deployment Code.

Information about new and existing mobile base stations including new technologies is available on the National Site Database called the Radio Frequency National Site Archive at www.rfnsa.com.au

14. Will Telstra be using small cells for 5G?
Yes, Telstra will be using a range of different base stations for 5G including small cells.  Initially, for Telstra’s 5G deployment, existing base stations will be upgraded.

15. Will small cells be built on every street for 5G?
No, Telstra does not plan or need to build small cells on every street for 5G.  Telstra is upgrading its existing network to provide the initial 5G coverage and will use small cells in future years.

Small cells are typically used to provide localised coverage in small geographic areas where there are coverage limitations due to terrain, buildings or other obstructions, or to provide additional capacity where there is a significant number of people using mobile and data services in the local area.  Small cells are not new and have been used for many years to provide mobile services.

16. Do small cells have high EME?
No, small cells operate at low power and have low EME levels.

Telstra has tested a range of small cells and found the EME levels close by and immediately around the small cell to be very low and well below the EME safety limits.

17. Why is Telstra activating 5G base stations when devices are not yet available?
Telstra is currently testing the new 5G technology across parts of Australia with prototype devices as part of the important integration phase so it’s ready for customers when the commercial devices are available.  The integration is an important step in the network readiness.

When we activate a 5G base station we also boost the 4G capability at that same location which means our existing 4G customers get an immediate benefit.

18. What EME does 5G add?
Telstra has conducted extensive EME testing and analysis on the 5G trial network at Southport on the Gold Coast and commenced EME testing on the new 3.5GHz commercial base stations.  The test results show EME levels are similar to the existing mobile technologies and well below the EME safety limits.

Telstra presented a summary of the results to the Science and Wireless Conference in November 2018 held by the Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research (ACEBR).

The presentation is available online at https://acebr.uow.edu.au/events/UOW254614   

 

19. What testing has Telstra done on 5G to ensure it’s safe?
Telstra has a dedicated team with responsibility for managing EME compliance and we ensure that all Telstra base stations and devices are designed to meet Australian EME safety standards.

Telstra uses EME specialists that are independently accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) for EME compliance assessments.

In 2018 Telstra conducted extensive EME testing and analysis on the 5G trial network at Southport on the Gold Coast and commenced EME testing on the new 3.5GHz commercial base stations.  The test results show EME levels are similar to the existing mobile technologies and well below the EME safety limits.

 

20. How can the public find out what EME is coming from nearby base stations?
Information about new and existing mobile base stations including EME levels is available on the National Site Database called the Radio Frequency National Site Archive at www.rfnsa.com.au

21. Is Telstra using beam forming antennas for 5G?
Yes, beam forming antennas are part of the new 5G technology standards and deliver great network efficiencies.  Telstra is deploying beam forming antennas as part of the new 5G service.   Beam forming antennas for 5G enable the mobile signal to be sent directly to devices in a narrow beam rather than to the broader area where the device is located.

The existing 3G and 4G technologies also use beam forming antennas however the beam is quite broad and typically 120 degrees wide.

22. What happens to 4G when 5G is activated?
5G is designed to work in conjunction with 4G.  When we activate a 5G base station we also boost the 4G capability at that same location which means our existing 4G customers get an immediate benefit.

 

23. Is Telstra proposing to turn off 3G?
Yes, in future years Telstra will turn off 3G as the 4G and 5G services evolve.  The frequencies used for 3G will be reused for newer mobile technologies that provide greater efficiency.

 

24. Do base stations in residential areas impact property prices?To work effectively, base stations need to be located near the people wishing to access this technology.  Property valuation is a complex issue, with fluctuations in price being subject to a number of factors. Many of these are subjective, and may be as diverse as aspect, views, condition of the property, local amenity and access to services, including high quality communications.  Since the mid-1990s, thousands of telecommunication facilities have been installed throughout Australian metropolitan and regional areas. During this period, property values have continued to increase, showing no clear signs of deterioration as a result of the location of communications facilities.

Telstra is not aware of any credible evidence that directly links the siting of telecommunications facility to a decrease in property prices

 

25. Is ‘5G’ displayed on Wi-Fi modems and routers the same as the new 5G mobile technology?
No. ‘5G’ displayed on Wi-Fi modems and routers actually refers to one of the frequency bands used for Wi-Fi of 5GHz. The other Wi-Fi frequency band is 2.4GHz and sometimes displays as 2G on a modem or router.

The 5G mobile technology to be introduced in 2019 is completely new and is the next evolution from 4G and 3G.  It’s completely understandable that people may be confused by the similar abbreviations and terms so we hope this helps to clarify the meaning.

 

 

More comprehensive information about 5G and EME is available from the following resources:

EMF Explained Series, which has been developed by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) in association with the GSMA and Mobile and Wireless Forum (MWF).

5G Wireless Technology Fact Sheet – Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research

Telstra Exchange – information on wireless technology from Telstra

Misinformation about Australia's 5G Network – Australian Government - Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA)