Tech Journalists Faults 5G Conspiracy Theory, Cautions Nigerians


Emma Okonji

With the debate on the health implication of the Fifth Generation (5G) technology, and the purported cabling of 5G fibre optic infrastructure in Nigeria, the Nigeria Information Technology Association (NITRA), an umbrella body for ICT Journalists in Nigeria, has laid out the facts concerning the effect of the technology to human health.

In a statement by the Association, the Chairman, Mr. ChikeOnwuegbuchi explained that 5G is expected to connect people, things, data, applications, transport systems and cities in smart networked communication environments. The technologyshould transport a huge amount of data much faster, reliably connect an extremely large number of devices and process very high volumes of data with minimal delay.

“5G technologies are expected to support applications such as smart homes and buildings, smart cities, 3D video, work and play in the cloud, remote medical services, virtual and augmented reality, and massive machine-to-machine communications for industry automation. 3G and 4G networks currently face challenges in supporting these services,” he explained.

Onwuegbuchi however pointed out that despite the allegations by conspiracy theorists on the availability of 5G services in Nigeria, the cabling for 5G infrastructure, and the link between 5G and the current COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria has not even released spectrum for 5G services to Mobile Network Operators (MNO), therefore it is technically impossible to run a 5G service in the country.

According to the NITRA Chairman, the Nigerian public should only source information from reliable authorities and experts on the issue, such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU); the World Health Organisation (WHO), the nation’s telecommunication regulatory body, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and the supervisory Ministries, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Ministry of Health.

Onwuegbuchi cited expert opinions on the matter, quoting WHO, which has categorically stated that viruses cannot travel on radio waves or mobile networks and that COVID-19 is a respiratory disease.

ITU plays a leading role in managing the radio spectrum and developing globally applicable standards for IMT-2020. Its activities support the development and implementation of international regulations and standards to ensure that 5G networks are secure, interoperable, and that they operate without causing or receiving harmful interference to or from adjacent services.

Discussing alleged health risks from 5G, the WHO documented that “to date, and after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies.”

However, WHO is further conducting a health risk assessment from exposure to radiofrequencies, covering the entire radiofrequency range, including 5G, to be published by 2022.WHO will review scientific evidence related to potential health risks from 5G exposure as the new technology is deployed, and as more public health-related data become available.

WHO established the International Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Project in 1996. The project investigates the health impact of exposure to electric and magnetic fields in the frequency range 0-300 GHz and advises national authorities on EMF radiation protection.

On exposure levels, the WHO further establishes that currently, exposure from 5G infrastructures at around 3.5 GHz is similar to that from existing mobile phone base stations. “With the use of multiple beams from 5G antennas, exposure could be more variable as a function of location of the users and their usage. Given that the 5G technology is currently at an early stage of deployment, the extent of any change in exposure to radiofrequency fields is still under investigation.”

A spokeswoman for the telecoms trade body GSMA said the new limits showed the safety of current and future technology. “Importantly, the health risk assessment is unchanged. The review found no established health risks to anyone, including children, using mobile phones or living near base stations,” she said.

A GSMA report reiterates that 5G adoption would grow as its benefits become visible. It points to the slow pace of awareness around the technology, suggesting that even increased knowledge about the usefulness need not translate into actions to upgrade or even intentions to do so.

Also, shedding more light on the issue, an independent international standards body, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which was set up in 1992 to assess the impact of electromagnetic and acoustic waves on people and the environment, said its current guidelines are mostly appropriate for the 5G era.

Medical health specialist have also lent their voices to the issue. Condemning the theories as “the worst kind of fake news”, National Medical Director of NHS England, Professor Steve Powis said: “I’m absolutely outraged, absolutely disgusted, that people would be taking action against the very infrastructure that we need to respond to this health emergency.”

Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Bristol, Professor Adam Finn, in his position said: “The internet connections these networks give us are one of the most important tools we are using to co-ordinate our response to the epidemic and efforts to do research to overcome it.”

Also, professor of microbial pathogenesis at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Prof Brendan Wren, said a connection between the phone masts and the virus would be “both a physical and biological impossibility.”