Is 5G safe?
As you may have already heard, 5G is the newest wireless technology brought to New Zealand. Being the latest generation of mobile tech, it can be up to 10 times faster than 4G and is designed to offer faster and more reliable connectivity to the internet services you already use and enjoy, especially while on the move.
As with any new technology, we understand you may also have some questions about the potential health risks of this new technology on your health and the environment.
At Vodafone, we’ve always put the safety of our customers and the people of New Zealand at the heart of everything we do. We go to great lengths to comply with national and international safety guidelines at every stage of planning, building and operating our mobile and fixed line networks.
When it comes to introducing 5G to New Zealand, we’ve maintained the highest national and international safety standards; each of which are based on decades of research and get reviewed by experts on a regular and consistent basis.
Where does Vodafone 5G sit in the Electromagnetic Spectrum?
Frequently asked questions
Is 5G safe to use?
5G is definitely safe to use. As we speak, it is being used to enhance life-saving services such as 5G connected ambulances and remote surgery. It is also being used for recreational services such as virtual fitness training, gaming on the go, holographics and augmented reality. All these applications are safely made possible because:
• 5G is designed to be fully compliant with existing international EMF exposure guidelines. This means it has been safeguarded against all established health hazards for everyone, including children.
• These guidelines are regularly reviewed and issued by independent public health authorities and expert groups including the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). ICNIRP international guidelines are applicable to all 5G frequencies that will be used in New Zealand.
• In July 2018, ICNIRP thoroughly reviewed the science that has been published since its last exposure guidelines were released. They definitively concluding that the 5G spectrum doesn’t require any additional protective measures.
• The position of the WHO is as follows - “A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.”
• Vodafone is committed to complying with national regulations in all markets, including New Zealand and will continue to do so across new 5G devices, new radio masts and small cells
For Ministry of Health information please refer to their PDF: '5G and health'
Who makes the rules for EMF?
• Vodafone New Zealand adopts international guidelines from the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). These guidelines are based on extensive scientific research across decades
• These guidelines apply to 5G in the same way as they do to existing 2G, 3G and 4G technologies and other radio frequencies such as radio and TV transmission signals.
• In July 2018, ICNIRP published a draft review of their mobile frequency guidelines. In it, they clearly stated that none of the frequencies used by mobile communications, including 5G, would need any additional amendments to their guidelines.
Who oversees New Zealand research into EMF?
In New Zealand, the Interagency Committee on the Health Effects of Non-Ionising Fields monitors research into extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields, and radiofrequency fields used to provide telecommunications services.
The Committee reports to the Director General of Health, and includes representatives from government, industry, academic and consumer groups, and considers papers on key research topics and research reviews published by national and international health bodies.
These reviews conclude that exposures which comply with current limits do not cause health effects. Nor has any mechanism been established through which such exposures could cause effects.
The interagency committee concludes that further research will be required to provide greater certainty. More details can be found at health.govt.nz.
Are the international EMF guidelines regularly reviewed?
These guidelines are regularly reviewed and issued by independent public health authorities and expert groups including the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). ICNIRP international guidelines are applicable to all 5G frequencies that will be used in New Zealand.
Have the new 5G frequencies specifically been investigated by scientists and proven safe?
5G and other frequencies have been the subject of research for a number of years by several panels of independent experts. The current consensus between these research bodies is that no adverse health effects arise from exposure within the international guideline limits. In fact, new 5G handsets follow rigorous testing and evaluation well before they reach consumers; each of them following identical compliance guidelines that current handset models adhere to.
Has Vodafone or the mobile industry conducted its own research into 5G?
• The World Health Organisation (WHO) outlines the areas of priority for research. These branches of research are then carried out by international, national and regional research programmes.
• Vodafone believes in keeping all research independent of industry influence. Hence it only funds research into mobiles, base stations and health through neutral funding bodies such as national government bodies.
• Vodafone also responds to requests from other bodies conducting their own research by providing technical advice and information on the use of mobile devices. This helps ensure scientists consistently have the best quality information available.
Which frequencies are used for 5G deployment?
• 5G can use spectrum within three key frequency ranges:
- Below 1 GHz: to support widespread coverage across urban, suburban and rural areas.
- 1-10 GHz: to offer a mixture of coverage and capacity. New spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band will be used for 5G services.
- Above 10 GHz: For ultra-high speed 5G services.
Some of these bands are at similar frequencies to existing mobile technologies in use today.
Does the use of these 5G frequencies mean higher exposure?
• Higher frequencies typically mean shorter ranges but higher speeds for data. It does not mean higher exposure. The future deployment of 5G (and the current trials) only use frequencies which have been covered by the existing exposure standards.
Do the ICNIRP standards cover 5G frequencies and mmWave?
• Yes. ICNIRP’s current international guidelines are applicable to 5G frequencies. ICNIRP’s exposure guidelines cover frequencies from 100 kHz – 300 GHz.
Do 5G antennas / masts expose me to more RF compared with 2G, 3G or 4G?
• Actual exposure levels from antennas providing all available services will fluctuate for several reasons, including the number of services running and the amount of use for each service.
• Overall exposure levels should remain relatively constant and well within established international exposure limit guidelines.
Will 5G handsets need more power and put me at increased risk?
• All handsets are subjected to stringent testing standards covering all the frequencies they can operate at, and at their maximum power. Currently, there aren’t any 5G handsets commercially available. But the ones that will be commercially available for 5G will be subject to the same rigorous and stringent testing standards to ensure each of them comply with international guidelines and regulations.
What is ‘beamforming’?
• Similar to how a spotlight tracks an actor across a stage, beamforming is a new type of antenna technology which creates a more focused beam of radio waves to enable faster data services in a very specific area.
• The current beamforming antennas use a series of fixed, narrow beams covering an array of locations. However, with 5G the technology has evolved into a beam that can be steered; giving it the ability to follow devices as they move through a coverage area to enable continuous service.
Does 5G beamforming use more power or expose me to greater RF compared to 3G / 4G?
• Beamforming allows us to focus data transmission more precisely to devices, thus improving data speeds. In these circumstances, it is likely there will be a much shorter period of higher exposure, compared to a much longer period of low exposure. However, any exposure from beamforming will comply with international guidelines and regulations.
Will 5G need a mast every 20 metres because of the higher frequencies?
• No. We always aim to make the most efficient use of masts and infrastructure. Therefore, wherever possible, we look to upgrade existing sites with new antennas first.
What is Vodafone’s commitment to keeping New Zealand users safe while using 5G?
At Vodafone, we’ve always put the safety of our customers and the people of New Zealand at the heart of everything we do. We go to great lengths to comply with national and international safety guidelines at every stage of planning, building and operating our mobile and fixed line networks. With the launch of 5G devices and radio masts, we will continue to do our very best to ensure they are safe and comply with all national and international regulations.
Can I get more information from an independent source?
You absolutely can. To read more about the scientific research being conducted on the health and safety aspects of 5G technology, please visit this section on independent research.
Here is more information about mobiles, masts and health.
For Q&As from the Ministry of Health, please visit their page on 5G questions and answers.
For independent information from Consumer NZ, please visit: 'Why 5G isn't a health hazard'