Self-driving cars, delivery drones, following your truck fleet in real-time, long-distance surgery, a movie downloaded in just a few seconds: 5G will be revolutionary for our every-day life in the years to come thanks to higher speed and a hyper-active network.
You are perhaps wondering about the impact of the deployment of the Proximus 5G network in Belgium or the effects of 5G on health. Could this promising network have a negative impact on people’s health?
Initially, 5G will emit in the same range of frequencies than existing 2G, 3G, 4G and WiFi networks have been operating. Despite a significant number of studies in the areas in the last 30 years, no negative impact has been found from operating in this range of frequencies. In the longer run, 5G will also be used on so called “millimeter waves”, which are shorter waves which do not emit as far, and thus require more, smaller, antennas.
In all European countries, 5G is also deployed within the framework of the safety standards set by international and independent organizations. The opinion of the World Health Organization (WHO), which is independent, is clear: there is no evidence to convince experts that the technology on which 5G is based presents any health risk - “despite numerous researches, nothing shows that exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields is dangerous to human health”. At Proximus, we respond by constantly researching new technologies, educating our customers and advising them on precautions to take.
In order to transport voice, data or SMS signals between phones (and other devices) and mobile antennas, mobile networks use radio waves in specific frequency bands. These radio waves create an electromagnetic field (EMF), and the level of this field is strongly regulated and measured in order to ensure it meets legal regulation. Such exposure to radio waves, such as those produced by mobile networks, but also by all electrical appliances, is governed by standards set by independent scientific bodies, such as the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), who determine those standards based on extensive reviews of the scientific evidence. The limits and standards determined by ICNIRP are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for application in all countries and include large safety margins. 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G equipment, whether it be mobile devices or base stations, all have to meet those same safety requirements.
Therefore, the power levels of the radio signals transmitted by 5G radio equipment will be of similar or lower magnitude as those used in previous networks. 5G devices are designed and tested to comply with established radio wave exposure limits. In countries that follow international recommendations, the actual emission levels are well below the limits and will remain so with the arrival of 5G.
At Proximus, we have been developing and improving a mobile network since the very first call on our network more than 30 years ago. At all stages of this development, the health and safety of our customers and the general public have always been - and continue to be - a top priority for us.
In Belgium, all three regions impose standards that are significantly stricter than those internationally recommended, despite the fact that those standards already provide significant margins of safety.
Example: Comparison of maximal allowable emission levels
Furthermore, while these standards had originally been published in 1998, ICNIRP re-confirmed in March 2020 its recommendations in terms of exposure limits including all frequency bands used by mobile networks. This means that even after more than 20 additional years of scientific research into this field, no additional negative impact was demonstrated.
A common misunderstanding is that additional antennas cause increased radiations. In reality, if your phone has difficulties to reach the closest network antenna (for example, it is far away from your home or your home is well isolated), you will have poor reception. In such a case, your mobile phone or tablet has to use its maximum power. A better antenna coverage optimizes the exchange of electromagnetic waves between the antenna and the handsets.
What is the radiation level (SAR value) of your mobile phone?
The radiation level of a device, also called the SAR value (specific absorption rate), is the unit of measurement for the quantity of electromagnetic energy that is absorbed by the body when using a wireless device (mobile, tablet, cordless phone, etc.). The maximum allowed radiation value in Europe is 2 Watt/kg.
You can find the SAR value for a particular device in our mobile phone catalogue. In Belgium, 5 SAR categories have been defined by the health authorities:
Note: the actual SAR value is usually lower than the maximum value indicated, as your mobile does not use more energy than is necessary to establish a connection with the network.
While no link has been shown to exist between mobile devices and possible effects on health, should you wish, as a precautionary measure, to limit your or your children's exposure to electromagnetic waves, you should opt for a phone with a low radiation value (e.g. one from category A or B), by having them use an earpiece when making phone calls and or by making calls only when coverage is good (e.g. when you are in the proximity of a transmission mast).
All mobile phones sold by Proximus are provided with an earpiece.
Impact of your Mobile Coverage Extender (Pro)
Thanks to a Mobile Coverage Extender (Pro), your mobile phone or tablet can connect with the mobile data network more easily. This means your device uses less power, so it produces less radiation.
The Mobile Coverage Extender (Pro) has a very low maximum power compared with many other electrical appliances. For example, the Mobile Coverage Extender (Pro) produces five times less power than a baby phone.
Despite this low power, we nevertheless recommend that you place your Mobile Coverage Extender at least 1 meter away from areas where you spend a lot of time.
The extra power you get with the Mobile Coverage Extender (Pro) is therefore more than compensated for by the reduced power of your mobile phone or tablet. If you want to avoid radiation in your home completely, you can use your landline for calling and a cable Ethernet solution for Internet.
While Proximus takes all the applicable precautious, and ensures that it stays below EMF emissions for all its sites, there are specific actions you can also take to minimize your exposure still further. You can follow the tips set out below:
Exposure decreases very quickly with distance, so:
- Adopt good practices with your smartphone: when you're on the phone, you can use speaker mode or talk via a headset rather than holding your phone against your ear. When you're on the move, you can put your smartphone in a bag rather than in an item of clothing. Simple, don't you think?
- Find a suitable place for your b-box, Wi-Fi Booster, Wi-Fi Extender or cordless phone: these devices are best installed in a central location in your home and more than a meter away from places where you spend a lot of time, such as your bed, desk or sofa.
- Contrary to what you might think, your device will emit less to connect to the network if it captures a strong Wi-Fi or 4G signal. Therefore, the more signal bars displayed on your device, the less strong your exposure to waves. It's all good!
- The Mobile Coverage Extender and Wi-Fi Booster will help you obtain good mobile and Wi-Fi coverage in your home if you don't already have this.
- Give preference to the phones sold on proximus.be which have a good SAR value. We make sure of that!
- If you plan on traveling (e.g. by train or car), your smartphone will seek to connect to antennas along the way. This is not something to worry about, but if you download as much content (e.g. movies and music) as possible in advance, your phone will have less work to do. It will be more relaxing, more economical, and will save battery along the road!
- Your smartphone likes a rest as well: you can switch it off or put it on airplane mode when you don't need it. In particular, be sure to do this at night if you leave your phone on your bedside table. Moreover, did you know that a restart always does a smartphone a whole lot of good?