*WHO, ITU, GSMA, ICNIRP others rubbish claim
*How NCC checkmates tech hazards in tech sector
By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor
The controversy raging over whether the new revolutionary network, fifth-generation network, 5G is behind the rampaging coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic or not, understandably should be of concern to Nigerians.
Going by what 5G brings into the world tech economy, the network appears a strong factor to how the country plays in the global league of tech economies.
Also, for a growing tech economy with poor healthcare system, it may not pay the country to romance with any technological innovation that harbours health hazards.
Again, since the controversy began, the world has watched as millions of dollar tech investments have been destroyed by irate groups who threw caution to the winds in destroying telecom facilities, including those not associated with 5G.
The country cannot afford to degenerate to that level because it may not recover from the after-effects.
However, experts in technology business say there are also strong reasons Nigerians should go to bed and not participate in this argument.
First, almost all reputable international organisations in science and tech, electrical and electronics, health, and telecommunications engineering, have knocked the argument that 5G has anything to do with COVID-19 pandemic.
Second, they believe that Nigeria has the most promising telecom regulatory agency that is not only respected in Africa but also across the world.
Consequently, there are certain measures the regulator said it has put in place to check new technologies capable of causing health hazards to the citizenry.
More so, these are in addition to the advantage of a 5G demonstration in the country, November last year. The demo provided the opportunity for relevant authorities to weigh the pros and cons, and possible effects of deploying the network in Nigeria.
MTN Nigeria, in November, 2019 carried out a 5G demonstration on the strength of capacity provided by a trial spectrum in the 26Ghz spectrum band allocated by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.
The NCC said it approved the trial, after the telco fulfilled all requirements, including environmental Impact Assessments.
What is 5G?
5G is the fifth generation of wireless communications technologies supporting cellular data networks. It is basically an upgrade from the more common 4G and is aimed at enhancing connection not only between people but also between machines, objects and devices. Advancements in emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, among others are said to depend largely on its capabilities.
Coincidentally, there have been some puzzling speculations linking the development of 5G technology with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic around the world.
This is based on wide claims that it radiates electromagnetic emissions that are harmful to people where ever it is deployed.
But experts say the network is classified in the non ionizing radiation zone. They argue that non ionizing radiation does not carry much energy per quantum to ionize atoms or molecules. Rather than producing charged ions when passing through matter, it has got sufficient energy only for the transmission of an electron to a higher energy state.
But ionizing radiation has a higher frequency and shorter wavelength that poses health hazards. So the fears that laying 5G fibre cables could cause harmful radiation is baseless since the network does not fall into the ionizing category.
In fact, top five international organisation with requisite expertise to decide on this debate have all described the link of 5G with the COVID-19 pandemic as laughable. The International Telecommunications Union, ITU, the World Health Organisation, WHO, the International Commission on Non Ionising Radiation Protection, ICNIRP, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, IEEE and the GSM Association, GSMA have all distanced themselves from the claim.
ICNIRP dismisses claim
For instance, the German-based ICNIRP, which carried out a seven-year study on the health implications of 5G, recently, has debunked claims that 5G radiates emission capable of causing pandemics such as Coronavirus.
Chairman of ICNIRP, Dr. Eric van Rongen said: “We know parts of the community are concerned about the safety of 5G and we hope the updated guidelines will help put people at ease. “Over the course of our research, we found no evidence that the use of 5G mobile phone networks harmed the body beyond heating some tissue. “We also considered all other types of effects; for instance, whether radio waves could lead to the development of cancer in the human body. We found that the scientific evidence for that is not enough to conclude that indeed there is such an effect.”
The new guidelines were based on seven years of research and update guidelines last set in 1998.
WHO says it’s a lie
The study seems to align with that of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) radiation from Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) and public health, which concluded that: “Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.”
Reacting to the study, GSM Association, GSMA, which regulates mobile usage and standards, said it was reassuring that researches that have been carried out for over 20 years still attest to the safety of these networks. Chief Regulatory Officer of GSMA, John Giusti, said. “Twenty years of research should reassure people there are no established health risks from their mobile devices or 5G antennas.”
ALTON warns on dangers of misinformation
Another telecom engineer and Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators in Nigeria, ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, warns on dangers of misinformation: “There is no scientific basis for the claim that 5G is responsible for coronavirus: the world is still seeking to know the source of the infection virus and it had not been traced to anything not to talk of Telecommunications. “We should be careful about spreading such information. Science is different from fiction and the peddlers of such information should be careful not to misinform the public“
The government is already doing a lot to curb the spread and this type of information is capable of causing diversion from the reality of what we face and the scientific steps needed to curtail the spread.
NCC’s measures reassure
Meanwhile, The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC has provide clarifications where it was affected by the claim.
Head Public Affairs of the Commission, Dr Henry Nkemadu said: “ There is no correlation between 5G Technology and COVID-19. 5G is an advancement in today’s 4G technology designed to transform the world positively. Again, there is no deployment of 5G in Nigeria at the moment. The NCC back in November 2019 approved trial test for the technology for a period of three months and that the trial has been concluded and installation decommissioned. The trial among others was to study and observe any health or security challenges the network might present. Relevant stakeholders including members of the security agencies were invited to participate in the trial.”
Consequently, Nkemadu said that the NCC, under the current Chief Executive, Prof Umar Danbatta has embarked on key initiatives aimed at ensuring that standards are maintained in the country.
He said as a way of paying attention to the health of Nigerians, the regulator had checkmated the industry in many ways including these measures:
Type-Approval and Monitoring Compliance.
According to him, the NCC, has been at the forefront of enthroning compliance to standards by telcos and other licensees in the industry.
Through the Technical Standards and Network Integrity Department and the continuous enforcement activities of the Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Department, the Commission has continued to r ensure standardization in to safeguard the health of citizens.
Increased Collaboration on Equipment Standardisation
In February 2019, NCC, in collaboration with the ONSA and other government agencies set up two committees to combat the cases of fake and substandard mobile devices brought into the country without recourse to standardisation process.
Regulations of e-waste, IT Counterfeiting
Early in 2019, the Commission, unveiled regulation on e-waste and guidelines. The Commission sees e-waste as electrical or electronic equipment that is waste, including all components, sub-assembles and consumables that are part of the equipment at the time it becomes waste.
Tech trials, including 5G
The NCC does tech trials. It conducted the trial of 5G for two reasons; to ensure it meets expectations in terms of speed, capacity and latency, which help to ensure efficiency and improve the lives of the citizens. The Commission, says even though it has earmarked spectrums for 5G, it has however not approved any for operators and has not licensed any operator to deploy the network at the moment.
Answers to some frequently asked questions on 5G
•What is 5G?
5G is the fifth generation of mobile technology which is an improvement of today’s 4G technology with enhanced capabilities. 5G technology provides the platform for new and emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data to improve the way we live and work.
•Do we have 5G network in Nigeria now?
No there is no 5G network in Nigeria at the moment. What we had was a trial test for 3 months which has since been concluded.
•When are we expecting 5G in Nigeria?
No exact time frame but when conditions are right and all doubts are cleared.
•Do we have spectrum for 5G in Nigeria?
Yes, particularly the millimetre wave spectrum from 24GHz and above are available.
•Have we given out 5G spectrum to operators?
No. It will be auctioned at the appropriate time.
•Are there 5G deployments around the world?
Yes, in countries like South Korea, China, USA, Germany and others since middle 2019.
.Is the Radiation from 5G different from those of 2G, 3G and 4G?
No, they all belong to the same class of non-ionising radiation.
•Is 5G causing CORONAVIRUS?
No, there is no link what so ever between 5G and CORONAVIRUS or COVID-19.
•Has NCC issued licenses for 5G in Nigeria?
No, NCC has not issued any licence for 5G in Nigeria. NCC is technology-neutral as such we don’t license technology but assigns spectrum to operators for deployment of any service when allocated by NFMC.
•Why are some operators rolling out fibre during the lockdown period?
As a result of the lockdown, the amount of voice and data usage has increased by huge amounts and there is a need to expand the network to provide optimum quality of service to users sitting at home.