The Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana (IIPGH), an association of professionals in the information and communication technology (ICT) industry in Ghana, has been following with keen interest recent conversations on social media and mainstream media with regards to stories linking the new mobile telephony technology called 5G to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The institute, in this statement, would like to educate the public on this contentious issue and demonstrate why the purported linkage is not supported by scientific evidence.
Coronavirus and 5G roots
Corona virus is a zoonotic disease which means it is an infectious disease caused by a pathogen that has jumped from non-human animals (usually vertebrates) to humans and then spreads from human to human. Pangolin-like animal is suspected to have transmitted this string of the virus called the novel coronavirus disease (covid19). It was first reported in Wuhan city in China and has so far been traced to an animal market in that city. Coronavirus is biological and can be transferred from one person to the other through the mouth, nose and eyes when one comes in contact with infected person. The infected patient who may be asymptomatic or symptomatic can transfer the virus to another person when droplets of fluids containing the virus are spread through coughing, sneezing or spitting into the air or surfaces.
5G on the other hand is a technology to provide an extra-large pipe of internet to connect mobile phones and other devices with 10x the current speed and data volume being provided by 4G. 5G is a technology designed to carry voice and Big data using non-ionizing electromagnetic wave as a means of transport over the air interface to devices. These devices are mainly electronic devices and not human beings. Non-ionizing electromagnetic wave in this context is the range of frequencies (3KHz – 300GHz) on the electromagnetic spectrum that cannot cause harm to the human tissue/cell/DNA when exposed to the radiation. E.g. FM Radio Frequencies (87MHz – 108MHz), Television Frequencies (700MHz), Mobile network frequencies such as 1G (150MHz – 900MHz), 2G (900MHz – 1.8GHz), 3G (1.6GHz – 2.0GHz), 4G (2GHz – 8GHz) and 5G (2GHz – 300GHz).
Evolution of Mobile Technology in Ghana
Mobile telephony was invented in early 1980s during the Third Industrial Revolution (3IR) when electronics and information technology systems were coming up. When the wireless version of telephones was developed, it was named First Generation (1G). This 1G was developed on technology called the analogue mobile systems with a frequency modulation called FDMA (Frequency Division Multiple Access). It was designed for voice calls only and not digital.
In Ghana, the first 1G mobile network was launched in 1992 by Millicom Ghana Ltd with the brand name Mobitel. Second Generation (2G) of mobile telephony technology, called the GSM (General System for Mobile Communications), was also introduced in the 1990s. 2G came with features such as text messages and later introduction of GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) which was followed by EDGE (Enhanced Data for Global Evolution). GPRS was the first feature that allowed internet service (data) to be introduced on the mobile phone with a speed of 110Kbps. GPRS was quickly followed by EDGE which provided a slightly higher speed (throughput) of 135Kbps. This excitement of internet on the phone sparked the beginning of a mobile data race in the early 2000s. Spacefon (Now MTN) was the first to launch GSM Network in Ghana in 1996 followed by One-touch (Now Vodafone) before the analogue operator Millicom introduced their GSM network called Buzz in 2002.
The Third Generation (3G) then followed in the 2000s and provided the possibility of broadband internet on the mobile phone, popularly called mobile broadband. With 3G came corresponding devices, such as smart phones with wide screens that allowed users to browse on the phone, download applications (apps) and make video calls. MTN, Airtel-Tigo, Vodafone all deployed 3G from the late 2000s and early 2010s.
The quest for faster internet speed using mobile devices such as phones, tablets, music players among others pushed for yet another new technology with higher data throughput/speed. The Long Term Evolution (LTE) was developed in 2010s as the Fourth Generation (4G) of mobile technology. First Generation mobile systems radio access designed to provide speed of 100Mbps – 300Mbps. This speed is sufficient to stream videos and download high volume of data within seconds compared to 3G.
Emergence of 5G and Standardization
In order to achieve this ambitious plan of using internet as a medium to transport big data to connect devices that will enhance industrial efficiency, improve healthcare delivery, education and agriculture among others, the 5th Generation (5G) of mobile technology has been developed. This is the Next Generation of mobile systems, which should increase the data rates of 4G by more than 10 times with new radio interface and new spectrum, and provide possibilities for many new emerging services in different verticals. It is now being deployed in some technology matured markets such as United States, United Kingdom, China, Australia etc.
The specifications for a new generation of mobile telecommunications, including 5G, are set primarily by two bodies: ITU (International Telecommunication Union) and 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project). ITU is one of United Nations’ agencies devoted to information and communications technologies. It coordinates the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promotes international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, works to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world, and assists in the development and coordination of worldwide technical standards. The National Communications Authority (NCA), an agency under the Ministry of Communications, allocates and regulates all frequencies.
5G Spectrum and Microwave Radiation
5G is deployed on a range of frequency bands from low and narrow frequency bands to high and wide frequency bands. This high-band spectrum is sometimes called millimeter wavelength (mmWave) in the cellular industry, and it enables about 18 – 80 GHz of frequency. 5G can be deployed with low frequency band such as 700MHz – 2500MHz as being deployed by Verizon, a mobile network operator (MNO) in the United States to cover wide area while deploying the high-band frequencies to help with the features that 5G promises, including potentially supporting 1 million devices per square kilometre.
The microwave radiation from 5G equipment is not harmful to the human body. Frequency band between 300MHz – 300GHz have been allocated as microwave frequency bands. Because of frequency bandwidth constraints and the requirement of higher bandwidth to transmit big data, 18 – 300GHz range has been reserved by most countries to deploy 5G technology to harness the benefits of wide frequency band. This high frequency does not mean that radiation levels are being compromised. First, the range of frequency is still within the non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation which simply means it does not emit harmful radiations that would break chemical bonds or remove electrons when in contact with human tissues. It cannot alter the DNA of humans. The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) is an international commission specialized in non-ionizing radiation protection. ICNIRP checks the emission levels of telecommunications equipment and devices to ensure their emissions are within the acceptable threshold.
Radiation Protection Institute (RPI) is the organization in Ghana that conducts tests and issues certificates to Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) before telecommunications equipment are installed in communities. RPI uses the thresholds set by ICNIRP to benchmark radiation levels recorded in the field. 5G radiation tests have been conducted in UK, Australia and other countries where it has been deployed and, so far, the radiation levels have been extremely low and within the acceptable thresholds.
In the final analysis, the Institute will like to state, emphatically, that there is no relationship between coronavirus and 5G. Additionally, 5G does not spread covid19 and the general public should disregard conspiracy theories linking the new technology to the deadly pandemic. It is important to stress that radiations from 5G antennas have not be found to be harmful to human health. On the contrary, 5G technology, if eventually deployed in Ghana, will create a bigger pipe with higher data speed from mobile internet service providers (ISPs) which can be used by individuals, businesses and government agencies to increase productivity.
For more explanation, visit our website: https://iipgh.org/statement-on-coronavirus-and-the-link-to-5g-technology/
Mr. David Gowu
Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana.