5G is safe, just like 4G and 3G, says FCC

US communications regulator will maintain the same radio frequency limits as it did for 4G and 3G.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Smartphones using new 5G technology are safe, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) argues in a new proposal released on Thursday by its chairman, Ajit Pai. 

The ongoing rollout of 5G radios across the world has sparked fears from some that millimeter wavelengths used in some 5G deployments could harm humans

The governments of Belgium, Netherlands, and Switzerland are investigating these concerns. There have also been protests against 5G rollouts across the world and some local councils in the US have blocked new 5G wireless cells from being deployed. 

SEE: IT pro's guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

Angst over 5G technology could become a problem for the mobile carriers and smartphone makers, which are looking to 5G as the next major wave of innovation and revenue opportunities from a better connected Internet of Things. 

Pai's proposal is that the FCC maintains current radio frequency exposure limits in the US after a six-year review into potential health impacts. The rules around exposure levels apply to mobile phones, mobile towers, wireless routers, and everything else that emit RF signals. It is an important position since all devices sold in the US must go through an RF approval process with the FCC before becoming available to consumers.  

The FCC consulted with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other health agencies to reach its conclusions that current limits are safe. 

The telecommunications regulator cites a conclusion from Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, who issued a statement in November about the risks of currently allowed RF exposure limits. 

"Based on our ongoing evaluation of this issue, the totality of the available scientific evidence continues to not support adverse health effects in humans caused by exposures at or under the current radiofrequency energy exposure limits. We believe the existing safety limits for cell phones remain acceptable for protecting the public health," he wrote.  

Besides maintaining the existing standard, the FCC wants to establish uniform rules for compliance with RF standards and formalize the process for assessing compliance with the RF exposure standard for devices operating at high frequencies. 

As ZDNet's sister site CNET reports, an FCC official told reporters at a press briefing that there was "nothing special about 5G" and that there was no evidence that it was different to existing mobile technologies, such as 4G and 3G. 

Editorial standards