5G technology | handles

As part of the deployment of 5G and the national roadmap launched in 2018, ANSES was asked to conduct an expert appraisal on the exposure of the population to electromagnetic fields from 5G and on the possible health effects. The Agency has published a preliminary report on the progress of its work which presents an initial inventory of available scientific studies. She also raises her scientific work program in collaboration with the National Frequency Agency (ANFR).

5G for 5th generation

5G – for fifth generation – succeeds the fourth generation, known as 4G. The major difference displayed between 5G and previous generation mobile networks is the much larger amount of data that should be able to be exchanged without network congestion.

This new technology aims to promote the development of innovative services, both for individuals and businesses in multiple areas. It will promote the digitization of society and the development of new uses such as: virtual reality, transport and smart cities, the industry of the future, telemedicine, online education.

Deployment in France

In France, the deployment of 5G will be launched in 2020. Some mobile operators have already started pilot experiments in several cities to test the operation of the new infrastructures under development, with a view to commercial deployment. It is planned to use for this deployment frequencies close to those already used by previous generations of mobile telephony. It also requires two new frequency bands: the 3.5 GHz band and the 26 GHz band.

Evaluate the effects related to the technologies deployed in France

The Agency has defined the main lines of expertise work, according to the various technological parameters and the phases of deployment in France:

  • description of the different technologies related to 5G;
  • estimation of population exposure and assessment of health effects.

Two new frequency bands with distinct health issues

ANSES’s expert appraisal work will focus on possible biological or health effects, which would be specifically attributed to the new 5G frequency bands. The Agency has identified two distinct fields of study:

  • the risks related to the frequencies used in the context of the first deployments of 5G technology in France, around 3.5 GHz;
  • the frequencies that will be used later around 26 GHz.

Indeed, the modes of exposure and the potentially associated health effects would a priori be different. The health risks vary according to the degree of absorption of the frequencies by the body. The more the frequency of the electromagnetic waves increases, the more the waves are absorbed by the superficial layers of the skin. This reduces the depth of penetration of these waves in the body.

A lack of scientific data

The work of identifying publications has highlighted a significant lack, or even absence, of data relating to biological and health effects potentials in the considered frequency bands. In addition, research data on the highest frequencies between 20 and 60 GHz are still scarce. The expertise will thus consist in study the possibility of extrapolating the results of previous work on the risks of various technologies (3G, 4G, wifi, body scanner) and the data from the scientific literature available, to apply them to 5G innovations.

Given that this is a new technology under development, the risk assessment is conditioned by the acquisition of technical data on the various technologies deployed. So, ANSES stresses the need to obtain as much information as possible from the industrialists involved in order to better estimate exposure scenarios and anticipate possible risks for populations.

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