The current global roll-out of 5G infrastructure is designed to utilise millimetre wave frequencies (30–300 GHz range) at data transmission rates in the order of gigabits per second (Gbps). This frequency band will be transmitted using beamforming, a new introduction in near-field exposures. The International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has recently updated their guidelines. We briefly examine whether the new approach of the ICNIRP is satisfactory to prevent heat damage and other adverse bio-effects once millimetre wave 5G is included, and we challenge the use of surface-only exposure assessment for local exposures greater than 6 GHz in part due to possible Brillouin precursor pulse formation. However, this is relevant whether or not Brillouin precursors occur from absorption of either 5G or future G transmissions. Many significant sources conclude there is insufficient research to assure safety even from the heat perspective. To date, there has been no published in vivo, in vitro or epidemiological research using exposures to 5G New Radio beam-formed signals.
The current global roll-out of 5G infrastructure is designed to introduce and utilise millimetre wave frequencies (30–300 GHz range) at data transmission rates in the order of gigabits per second (Gbps). This frequency band will be transmitted using beamforming . This paper examines the rigor and relevance of the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection’s (ICNIRP) updated exposure guidelines regarding possible health impacts from exposure to 5G beam-formed emissions . The ICNIRP guidelines seek to prevent heat and shock injury from radiofrequency radiation exposure over the very short term.
The fact that millimetre wave (mmW) penetration is normally limited to the skin with minimal energy absorption imparted into the body has led to assumption that it is not necessary to measure or restrict this absorbed energy in the mmW bandwidth, but that surface restrictions are sufficient . We explore in more detail the ways this assumption is flawed and suggest how it could be addressed.
5G (formally called 5G New Radio) uses a wide range of radio frequency bands as well as relying on fibre. Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) has outlined the bands that providers should aim to use. These bands include low, mid, and high spectrum bands. The low-band spectrum will initially use existing bands of 900 MHz, 850/500 MHz and 700 MHz, with a view to adding the 600 MHz range, and ideally all low bands available. The mid band will include “as much contiguous spectrum as possible” in the 3.3–4.2 GHz band; also needed in mid band are 2.3 GHz and 2.5 GHz, and over time, more will be added between 3 and 24 GHz. The high band, also referred to as mmW bands, will include bands in the range of 26 GHz, 28 GHz and 40 GHz, with a view to incorporating 66–71 GHz “to encourage timely equipment support” .
The mmW band will be transmitted using beamforming—the first time this approach has been intentionally incorporated into telecommunication devices for public use, which will include near-field exposures from hand-held devices. Indeed, until 5G development, near-field exposures from this source were not investigated or considered in research or standards . The 5G beam-forming component will be targeted to specific devices in narrow, high-power beams compared to 3G or 4G, which are transmitted routinely in all directions available to each antenna. Opinion is mixed about whether this will increase or decrease overall environmental exposures. However, during use, the energy in 5G beams will be relatively high for those in their path and those handling receiving/sending devices; the beamed energy will interact with people, trees and animals in its path. The latter includes pollinating insects for whom increased absorption between 3 and 370% can be expected if only 10% of incident power shifts to frequencies greater than 6 GHz .
This paper explores the assumption by ICNIRP that it is not necessary to assess 5G exposures > 6 GHz using specific absorption (SAab).