Reacting to the persistent attacks on mobile infrastructure by arsonists mistakenly thinking that a link exists between 5G networks and coronavirus – backed by unfounded statements by celebrities – UK telecoms and broadcast regulator Ofcom has published test results showing that UK 5G continues to operate well within internationally accepted safety levels.
The release of the technical data is the latest response by the telecoms and scientific community to respond to the arson attacks, after reports first appeared on social media suggesting links between 5G networks and the coronavirus.
There then followed proclamations by a number of UK celebrities – including a well-known talent show judge, a former boxing world champion and a former sports commentator who is more famous for professing a global conspiracy involving “lizard people” – amplifying the unfounded social media rumours.
Flying in the face of Ofcom officially sanctioning a UK community radio station after it broadcast a discussion that contained potentially harmful views on Covid-19, fuel was added to the fire by long-time UK daytime TV host Eamonn Holmes, who on 13 April made an angry retort to a fellow presenter who was debunking the myths on ITV’s This Morning. Holmes went as far as accusing the UK media of having a “state narrative” on the issue.
The day after, Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery reported an arson attack on mobile masts providing connectivity to the NHS Nightingale hospital in Birmingham, a dedicated facility treating victims of the coronavirus.
The Holmes furore prompted Ofcom to reveal that it was assessing Holmes’s comments “as a priority”, and came just as it published research showing that almost half of UK online adults had come across false or misleading information about the coronavirus in the previous week.
Up-front and central in publishing its new test data, Ofcom states very clearly that claims 5G is connected to the spread of the coronavirus are just plain wrong and part of a conspiracy theory. It added that there is no scientific evidence to support the conspiracy theories linking the coronavirus to 5G – conspiracy theories that are putting lives at risk.
Following the launch of 5G in the UK in 2019, Ofcom published the results of electromagnetic field (EMF) measurements at 16 UK sites in February 2020. It has continued to test since then, and has now published an updated measurement report, which looks at 22 5G sites in 10 UK cities.
At every site, Ofcom found that emissions were a small fraction of the levels included in international guidelines. These guidelines are set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which in March 2020 published details of a seven-year research programme that found 5G technologies were not harmful if new guidelines and standards were adhered to.
The maximum that Ofcom measured at any mobile site was approximately 1.5% of those levels – including signals from other mobile technologies such as 3G and 4G. The highest level from 5G signals specifically was 0.039% of the maximum set out in the international guidelines.
As it continues to deal with the issue, assessing breaches of broadcast regulations, Ofcom said it would continue to regularly publish data from its measurement programme, including at further 5G sites.