Tuesday, December 15, 2020

5G Wireless Technology: Cutting Through the Hype

See the bottom of this page for links to recent news stories about 5G hype.

The CTIA, the wireless industry trade association, has launched an advertising campaign entitled, "The Global Race to 5G." The ads claim that unless the U.S. wins this "global race" to become the first nation to deploy the fifth generation of wireless technology or 5G, we will not reap the economic benefits of this technology. 

The CTIA claims that "compared to today's 4G networks, 5G will be up to 100x faster, support 100x more devices, and provide a 5x faster response time." Moreover, the association asserts that the nation's wireless industry is prepared to invest $275 billion in 5G which will yield three million new jobs and $500 billion in economic growth. If we win the global race, the "next-generation of wireless will drive $2.7 trillion of new economic benefits to American families and businesses."

The CTIA has denied for decades that there are adverse health effects from exposure to wireless radiation. By establishing a revolving door between its leadership and the FCC's, the CTIA ensures that the federal regulatory agency maintains the inadequate, obsolete radio frequency exposure limits which the FCC adopted in 1996.

The FCC and federal health agencies have been oblivious to the health concerns raised by more than 240 scientists from 44 nations who have published peer-reviewed research on the biologic or health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields.

More than 400 scientists and medical doctors from over 40 countries signed a declaration demanding a moratorium on the planned increase of cell antennas for 5G deployment in the European Union. Concerns over health effects from higher radiation exposure include potential neurological impacts, infertility, and cancer.

The following excerpts were extracted from a 23-page special report from RCR Wireless that cuts through much of the hype surrounding the deployment of 5G. The excerpts are direct quotes from the report. RCR Wireless is a trade publication that has reported on the wireless industry and wireless technology since 1982.

Transitioning to a 5G World

Kelly Hill, RCR Wireless, November, 2017

Excerpts from the Report
Hype is certainly high for 5G, given that the industry is still technically in a pre-standard phase and that standalone 5G systems are still some time off.
5G is coming even faster than originally expected. In December, the first official specification from the Third Generation Partnership Project is expected to be released; 5G New Radio will finally make its standardized debut – although like Long Term Evolution, 5G will continue to evolve and be refined in the coming years.
“5G will not replace LTE,” Rysavy Research concluded in an August report for the GSMA. “In most deployments, the two technologies will be tightly integrated and co-exist through at least the late-2020s.”
Although the industry is preparing for 5G, LTE [4G] capabilities will continue to improve in LTE Advanced Pro through the rest of the decade,”  Rysavy wrote .... 5G will eventually play an important role, but it must be timed appropriately so that the jump in capability justifies the new investment.
KT, for example, plans to support two different frequencies from the get-go in its 5G network: 3.5 GHz as an anchor with better propagation, complemented by 28 GHz in dense areas. Given that networks are expected to initially be 4G/5G networks, testing will have to continue to support LTE alongside 5G.
Hurtarte of LitePoint noted that although “millimeter wave” tends to be treated as one category, there are significant differences between the components and frequency planning needed at 28 GHz versus 39 GHz. In addition, although some frequencies are widely agreed upon, there are other frequencies that may get the nod for 5G use: 24 GHz in China, possibly 40-43 Ghz and possibly even above 70 GHz.
There are some major challenges to the success of 5G, which are all interrelated: the move to mmwave, the need for ultra-density, and the question of when the economics of 5G will actually work well enough to take off.
Mmwave [millimeter wave] provides the huge bandwidths that are needed for fast speeds and high capacity, but the higher the frequency, the shorter its range and more susceptible it is to being easily blocked and reflected (thus the need for beamforming in order to focus the energy more tightly). Seasonal foliage, energy efficient glass windows with special coatings, and standard housing materials all present effective barriers to mmwave reaching indoors to customer premise equipment, operators and vendors have found in their field testing.
Denisowski pointed out that fixed wireless is one thing, but moving objects are another. Obstruction, not radiating sources of energy, is likely to be the main cause of interference in 5G systems: vehicles driving back and forth, or even wind farms can scatter microwave radiation.
Density of foliage “plays a big role,” said Thadasina of Samsung, which has been working with a number of carriers on 5G trials. “What we found is that for the mmwave signal, as it penetrated through trees, the thickness of the trees matters. Initially the impedence offered by foliage is linear, but beyond a certain density it is no longer linear … it kills the signal.” Building materials are well-known to play a role in transmission from outdoors to indoors, he added, but the angle of incidence does as well. The difference between 30 degrees to 60 degrees to 90 degrees can create additional impedance, Thadasina said, “some of those things make it challenging in terms of closing the link.” Moisture levels play a role as well, he said ....
Fiber is fuel for 5G, and its prevalence is increasing. SNL Kagan found earlier this year that global fiber residential investment increased sharply in 2016, and that fiber is on track to reach 1 billion subscribers by 2021. Meanwhile, in the U.S., Vertical Systems Group reported that 49.6% of multi-tenant and enterprise buildings had access to fiber last year, compared to only 10% in 2004.

Deloitte said earlier this year that it expects to see $130 billion-$150 billion in “deep fiber” investment in the U.S. over 5-7 years, due to a combination of broadband competition, ensuring 5G readiness, and expanding fiber into new areas.

Murphy of Nokia said that operators should expect that, depending on which frequency they deploy in, they will need 2.5 to 10 times as many sites as they have now. That’s a tall order, especially given that small cell sites in cellular frequencies can take 18 to 24 months to get site approvals – scaling small cells has been hard enough in LTE, with the market moving much more slowly than analysts had predicted or carriers would like.
“It’s going to take a long time,” Einbinder said. “Constructing a cell tower is hard. A micro-cell has a lot of the same issues”: power and fiber and access to a site, which a community may be reluctant to grant – California, for instance, recently rejected a measure passed at the state level that would have streamlined processes for small cells.
... Einbinder thinks that some communities will take initiative and want to be 5G economic centers. While that’s encouraging for operators, it may also mean that 5G coverage maps look very different from the familiar red, blue, yellow and magenta maps indicating nationwide coverage. “The resulting coverage maps might have a lot more to do with [communities] than any economic or technological drivers – it’s going to be driven by local preference.”
While early work estimated that as many as 40 to 50 homes could be covered by a single fixed wireless site, according to Rouault of EXFO, that number has turned out to be around five in testing because of the complexity of beamforming necessary to support multiple homes. “It’s not at the point we would say the verdict is out,” Rouault added. “The technology is proven to work, but to make the business case work, the scale is the problem right now.”
So the biggest question is where a breakthrough is going to happen that becomes the point at which 5G becomes a more attractive investment than LTE. “What can 5G do that other systems can’t? This is where there is no clear answer,” said Hemant Minocha, EVP for device and IoT at TEOCO. There is no 5G requirement for IoT [Internet of Things], he points out, and the business case hasn’t yet been proven out for ultra-low latency (not to  mention that LTE is capable of lower latency than it has achieved to this point in networks).
Key Takeaways:
• The industry is moving quickly toward 5G, with momentum in testing and trials. The first official 5G specification from 3GPP is expected in December, with a protocol-focused release coming in the spring of 2018.
• Many features and architectures in LTE, particularly gigabit LTE, will both underpin future 5G networks and provide lessons learned in making 5G systems work. These include dense fiber deployment, higher-order and massive MIMO, network slicing, virtualization, and mobile edge computing.
• The biggest challenge for 5G lies in a millimeter-wave based RAN, with significant challenges ahead for designing and deploying a workable, optimized and profitable mmwave network on a large scale.
The RCR Wireless report, "Transitioning to a 5G World," can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/5Ghype.

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Monday, December 14, 2020

European Parliament Workshop on 5G Health Effects

December 14, 2020 (updated December 15)

The Panel for the Future of Science and Technology of the European Parliament held a workshop on the potential health impacts of 5G on December 7, 2020. 

The workshop included testimony from the chairman of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and from five experts.

The ICNIRP chairman claimed that ICNIRP's exposure guidelines for radio frequency (RF) radiation are adequate to protect against all health threats to humans, not just short-term or thermal effects, and that a wealth of research shows that 5G will not cause health problems.

In contrast, the five experts discussed potential impacts of 5G to humans, wildlife and the natural environment. Each of the experts raised concerns about the adequacy of ICNIRP's RF exposure guidelines to protect health. Both members of Parliament who chaired this meeting called for a moratorium on 5G deployment until these concerns are resolved.


  • Michèle Rivasi, Member of Parliament (MEP) and STOA (Science and Technology Options Assessment) Panel member
  • Ivo Hristov, MEP and STOA Panel member
  • Moderator: David Gee, Institute of Environment, Health, and Societies, Brunel University, London, UK; former senior advisor to European Environmental Agency

Health Impact of 5G

  • Fiorella Belpoggi, Research Director, Ramazzini Institute, Bologna, Italy
  • Elisabeth Cardis, Head of Radiation Program, Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), Spain
  • Rodney Croft, Chairman, International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP); Professor of Health Psychology, University of Wollongong, Australia
  • Franz Karcher, DG Sante, European Commission

Environmental Impact of 5G

  • Arno Thielens, Professor of Engineering, Ghent University, imec, Ghent, Belgium
  • Gerard Ledoigt, Professor of Biology, Clermont Université, Clermont-Ferrand, France

 Q&A from Audience and Closing Remarks

  • Ivo Hristov, MEP and STOA Panel Member
  • Michèle Rivasi, MEP and STOA Panel Member
  • David Gee, Moderator

The video of the workshop (with simultaneous translation into six languages) can be viewed at: https://bit.ly/EUparliament5Gworkshop.

The Participants Booklet for this workshop can be downloaded at: https://bit.ly/5GEUparliamentbooklet.

5G Workshop Summary

Note: For the following summary I relied on the English translator so my notes may not accurately reflect the speakers' testimony. I apologize in advance if I misconstrued anyone's comments.

Ivo Hristov (MEP): The recent ICNIRP review of the literature and recommended radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines suffer from a conflict of interest as they were "co-written" by members of industry. 5G should not be deployed until there is a risk assessment and until we have the tools to minimize the risks.

David Gee (moderator, Brunel University): Posed three questions to the panel of experts:

1. Is the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection's (ICNIRP) 2020 risk assessment of the health and environmental effects of electromagnetic fields sufficiently robust and reliable to define protection policies?

2. Are the exposure limits recommended by the ICNIRP for electromagnetic fields, which are based primarily on short-term tissue warming effects, sufficiently protective to avoid damage from exposures at lower levels and over the long term that are below the ICNIRP limits?

3. Is there sufficient independent research on the health and environmental effects of 5G that would help to reassure the public and minimize future liability?

Rodney Croft (ICNIRP Chairman):

Denied any industry involvement in the ICNIRP review of the literature or the development of RF exposure guidelines. Careful consideration was given to all public input that ICNIRP received.

Science is imperfect and results of a study are not completely reliable. Need to look at the body of research as a whole. The National Toxicology Program rat study is a good example of this. That the study made more than 10,000 statistical comparisons rendered the statistically significant outcomes meaningless. Thus, another study must be conducted to confirm the results.

 ICNIRP recognizes some biologic effects but does not believe there is sufficient data to indicate harm to animals or the environment.

The ICNIRP RF exposure guidelines protect against all health threats to humans, not just short-term or thermal effects.

A wealth of independent research shows 5G will not cause health problems. 5G is a new transmission protocol using RF fields and knowledge about RF is substantial. The RF mechanisms are well known. Science does not find differential effects for different modulations. The effect of frequency is already understood so it doesn't matter that some 5G frequencies are different from 4G.

Elisabeth Cardis (Barcelona Institute for Global Health):

Some recent experimental animal studies and epidemiological studies find harmful effects from low-level RF exposure. ICNIRP dismisses NTP study and epidemiological case-control studies. These observations raise the possibility that the ICNIRP 2020 guidelines provide inadequate protection. However, the evidence is not conclusive.  The widespread use of wireless technology warrants use of an ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) policy.

There is insufficient research on 5G, especially millimeter wave (mmw) effects, and an absence of epidemiological research. Research is also needed on measurement protocols, especially for 5G's massive-MIMO and beam-forming technology; on exposure assessment and mechanisms.

Fiorella Belpoggi (Ramazzini Institute):

We need a risk assessment on 5G (700 - 3500 MHz; 26 GHz). There have been thousands of studies on the lower frequencies; some found biological effects. ICNIRP guidelines do not sufficiently protect us from these lower frequencies, but this is a low risk.

The Interphone study found an increase in brain tumors and tumors on the acoustic nerve.

It is difficult to quantify exposures. There is uncertainty about the long-term effect of mmw's.

5G constitutes a major experiment on the human population. New technologies are being deployed without safety information.

If everyone is exposed to 5G, we will not have an unexposed comparison group in future studies.

We need safer mobile phones, especially for children and women.  Up to 5 volts per meter may be safe at least from carcinogenic effects.

 We need research on the combined effects of mmw's with frequencies in current use.

 Franz Karcher (DG Sante, European Commission):

The European Commission (EC) is reassessing the situation following the ICNIRP new review and guidelines. EC provides guidance to EU countries but does not mandate policies. EC relies on a wide range of advice from more than 100 academies and 40 countries -- free of conflicts of interest.

The EC asked the committee on new emerging health risks to review the evidence. The last review 5 years ago concluded that 1999 exposure limits are still valid including a 50-fold safety factor for the general public and 5-fold for occupational workers. EC member states follow these guidelines or have adopted more rigorous limits (e.g., Italy).

We need more studies as existing studies are inconsistent. EC is funding more research.

EC is aware of public concerns re: 5G.

French study: 5G's massive MIMO is likely to cause a minor increase in RF exposure but much less than current ICNIRP guidelines.

David Gee summary:

1) Exposure guidelines are often too weak to be protective, e.g., with more research chemical exposure limits are usually strengthened over time.

2) The science is complex and uncertain.

3) Not much is known about 5G; we have substantial research on 2G-4G.

4) The Ramazzini Institute never found a cancer effect in animals that did not affect humans.

5) An ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) policy is wise.

6) We need more research. Use ALARA policy in the interim.

Arno Thielens (Ghent University):

The ICNIRP RF exposure guidelines do not consider the scientific literature regarding effects on non-human animals and plants that are unrelated to human health.

The effect of heating is the same in all organisms, but the amount of heating varies. The ICNIRP guidelines only address humans.

The main human exposures come from base station antennas and personal wireless devices. Normal wireless users may have much greater whole-body exposure to RF after 5G deployment. 

Non-user exposures (including other species) may decrease with deployment of 5G over time due to beam-forming. However, some novel wireless applications may increase non-human exposures (e.g., tracking devices). We need to quantify this.

Most of the animal/plant/fungi research is on frequencies less than or equal to 6 GHz.  Little research has been conducted on the effects of frequencies above 6 GHz.

Below 6 GHz, biological effects have been found on invertebrates, plants, especially low frequency fields, but not necessarily harmful.

Gerard Ledoigt (Clermont Université):

RF radiation has important effects on the environment. Bee behavior is affected after 35-45 minutes exposure to mobile phone radiation.

Serious effects on plants after 48 hours of exposure.

Various animals and plants are affected by 1 Volt per meter. Some plants were affected after 10 minutes of exposure including non-thermal effects on plants (900 MHz). The physiological effects in plants depended on modulation of the signal.

There is a risk from long-term exposure to health. Pregnant women and children are more vulnerable. Brain tumor risk increases with long-term exposure. The research is robust. There is a cause-effect relationship.

Increased stress on organisms. Effects on DNA, quality of sperm reduced. Organ damage, liver, affected in newborn. Not due to thermic exposure. Epigenetic responses related to types of RF signals. Cellular division is changed. DNA repair is also affected leading to cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.

5G causes stress proteins and affects cellular membranes. The immune system, the heart and brain will be affected.

Genotoxicity. Prenatal effects in mice and rats.

He advocated for a moratorium on 5G and conduct of research fully independent from any pressure groups.

David Gee (summary):

1) ICNIRP evaluation and guidelines mainly focus on health, not the environment.

2) All life forms are affected by RF and often below ICNIRP levels.

3) 5G may decrease RF exposure for non-users and increase it for users.

4) The evidence is not convincing, but certainly concerning.

5) How much evidence is needed before policy makers take action?

Q&A session

MEP: Asked panelists to compare safety of 5G to 4G.

Rodney Croft: There is very good science. There is no uncertainty re: safety of 5G. All ICNIRP commissioners are 100% independent and can say whatever they like.

David Gee: James Lin, a former ICNIRP commissioner, thinks animal evidence of carcinogenicity is clear and convincing.

Rodney Croft: Lin has not provided a good reason to believe this.

Elisabeth Cardis: Has questions about beamforming -- hotspots for users? Recommends periodic surveys of uses and exposures in different countries.

Professor Tom Butler: Asked panelists to compare the strength of evidence re: RF carcinogenicity in 2011 (IARC review) to now.

Elisabeth Cardis: Largest new evidence is experimental (NTP, Ramazzini). We need to wait on the next IARC review to determine the risk of carcinogenicity.

Rodney Croft: Fifteen years of research in "great detail" finds no evidence of different health outcomes from RF exposure as a function of age or in any sensitive population.

Elisabeth Cardis: Some time ago some countries recommended the use of cabled internet in kindergartens in primary schools. Not sure if this still applies.

Fiorella Belpoggi: The hazard is stronger when we expose pregnant women, embryos, fetuses, and children. Actually, in our study and in the NTP study on Sprague Dawley rats, where exposure started at the beginning of dams' gestation,  we both have shown a statistically significant increase in heart Schwannomas. This didn’t happen in the NTP study on mice or in other previous studies, where exposure started in adulthood. So I am convinced that the hazard is greater for the early life window of susceptibility. For risk assessment purposes we should take into account this finding.

Concluding Remarks

Ivo Hristov (MEP): 

This very interesting debate has shown that 5G is likely to have an adverse impact on humans and the environment. The lack of research on 5G is very important. A plan of action for 5G should take into account the recommendations of the research community.

Michèle Rivasi (MEP): 

ICNIRP says no there is no uncertainty about 5G, and that everyone is protected. But ICNIRP only deals with humans, not the environment. There are major gaps in the research on 5G, especially mmw's. Paris airports have banned 5G due to a technical incompatibility. The NTP and Ramazzini studies show robust evidence of carcinogenicity. It cannot be true that there is no uncertainty. We should set up a group of experts in Europe to conduct a robust evaluation by an independent committee. We need to do this to restore consumer confidence in 5G. We should impose a moratorium on 5G until this is accomplished.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Overview of Contents

"Radio Frequency Radiation Health Risks: Implications for 5G" (Grand Rounds presentation, UC San Francisco, video, slides, 2020)

Cell Phone Radiation

Wireless Radiation Health Risks
The Politics of Wireless Radiation Research & Regulation

American Academy of Pediatrics
American Academy of Pediatrics: Protect Children from Cell Phone & Wireless Radiation

American Cancer Society
American Cancer Society: Cell Phone Radiation Risk

Berkeley Model Cell Phone Ordinance
Berkeley Cell Phone "Right to Know" Ordinance

California Public Health Department
Cell Phone Safety Guidance from the California Public Health Department
California's Cell Phone Safety Guidance: Media Coverage
California’s Cell Phone Safety Guidance: 2017 vs 2009

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
New York Times’ Exposé of CDC’s Retraction of Warnings about Cell Phone Radiation

Federal Communications Commission
FCC Open Letter: Moratorium on New Commercial Applications of RF Radiation
FCC needs input regarding allocation of spectrum for 5G
Cell Phone Industry Product Liability Lawsuit

International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection
ICNIRP’s Exposure Guidelines for Radio Frequency Fields 
Worldwide Radio Frequency Radiation Exposure Limits versus Health Effects

World Health Organization / International Agency for Research on Cancer
International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO) Position on Radiofrequency Radiation
WHO Radiofrequency Radiation Policy

Power Line Frequencies or Extremely Low Frequency Fields
Effects of Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (studies published from 1990 - 2020)
Cancer Risks from Exposure to Power Lines and Electrical Appliances