Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

Lawsuit against 5G and the debate around


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: 5G technology

Mains level: Issues with 5g rollout

A notable actor has filed a lawsuit in the Bombay High Court against the 5G telecom technology up-gradation, trial runs for which have started in India now.

What is 5G technology?

  • 5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks.
  • It mainly works in 3 bands, namely low, mid and high-frequency spectrum — all of which have their own uses as well as limitations.

Issues with the rollout

  • However, 5G and its rollout in many countries have been hampered due to fears over health concerns even some conspiracy theories as well, which have tried to link it with the coronavirus among other things.
  • The recent lawsuit is asking questions around the overall impact of 5G and low intensity radiofrequency (RF) electronic magnetic field (EMF) radiation on human health, and its environmental impact as well.
  • These concerns, while not yet proven, have been raised by various scientists before too.

Arguments raised in the lawsuit

  • It has stated that the ‘radiation’ it will emit will be “extremely harmful and injurious to the health and safety of the people”.
  • While using wireless devices one is in a constant dilemma about “RF radiation from wire-free gadgets and network cell towers”.
  • There is sufficient reason to believe that the radiation is extremely harmful and injurious to the health and safety of the people.
  • It wants the concerned department to certify that 5G technology is safe for humans and also animals and birds.

Why is 5G essential?

  • 5G promises to revolutionize mobile broadband and is a big generational leap over the existing 4G technology.
  • This new technology will be capable of not just ensuring fast internet on our phones, but also help power IoT (Internet of Things) networks to run connected cars and homes smarter.
  • It will also support the streaming of rich media.

Rollout status in India

  • 5G has not yet been rolled out in India though some companies have been given a trial spectrum to test 5G technology in the country.
  • Once this is over, it is expected that networks will go live with the 5G bands by the end of this year.
  • The 5G rollout is expected to gather pace in the country by 2022.

Fear around the impact of 5G radiation on human health

  • The claim is that the more powerful 5G waves will emit more radiation and cause harm to humans as well as other living beings.
  • Also, 5G will require more towers in order to ensure better connectivity, and since it will power more than just our smartphones, it will increase human exposure to such radiation in general.
  • This is an extension of the idea that cellular towers, which emit low-level RF-EMF radiation, are in general damaging our bodies.
  • But radiation from cellphone towers, mobile phones, WiFi routers is typically called non-ionizing radiation like radio waves, microwaves, and optical radiation.
  • RF fields have been classified by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).

Layman understandings over such radiations

  • There’s no doubt that radiation at very high levels, also referred to as ionizing radiation, heats up our tissue and can eventually lead to cancer.
  • This applies to medical devices such as a CT-scan machine or X-ray machine, which emit high-level ionizing radiation.
  • That’s exactly why doctors don’t recommend that you go get a CT scan for every health issue because it does increase unnecessary exposure to radiation.
  • But there are increasing concerns that our smartphones, other WiFi-ready devices such as laptops, and mobile phone towers which also emit low-level RF radiation are damaging our bodies given the constant exposure.

What WHO has to say?

  • On its page on 5G, the World Health Organization (WHO) says “no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies.”
  • But it also states that “only a few studies have been carried out at the frequencies to be used by 5G.”
  • Given the growing concerns, the WHO is conducting “a health risk assessment from exposure to radio frequencies, covering the entire radiofrequency range, including 5G.”
  • This study will be published by 2022.

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