The deployment of the Fifth Generation Technology (5G) has raised controversies across the globe. In Nigeria, some people even erroneously believed that the country has already deployed the technology, which they alleged was dangerous to people’s health. Nonetheless, 5G was approved for trial by the Nigerian Communications Commission in November 2019 to run for a period of three months.
5G is the new global wireless standard, after 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G networks, designed to connect virtually everyone and everything including machines, objects and devices. 5G wireless technology is designed to deliver higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability and a uniform user experience to more users.
It will enable higher performance, improved efficiency, empower user experiences and connect new industries. 5G is designed to provide new opportunities, enabling mankind to deliver ground breaking solutions that reach across society.
At a recent workshop organised for Nigerian Information Technology Reporters, a medical practitioner, Dr. Ejike Oji, said although 5G frequencies were higher than that of the 4G and 3G, it has not been linked with any adverse effects. Oji, who is the Chairman, Coalition for Maternal Child, Newborn and Adolescent Health Accountability Mechanism, pointed out that tissue heating was the main mechanism of interaction between radio-frequency field and human body.
Oji explained that as this frequency increases, there was less penetration into the body tissue and absorption of energy becomes more confined to the surface of the body. He said the effect could vary as a function of location of the user and usage, stressing that 5G frequencies has not been linked with any adverse effects. He quoted the World Health Organisation as saying: “No adverse health effects had been casually linked with exposure to wireless technologies.”
Former Director of Public Affairs, NCC, Dr. Henry Nkemadu, had in a statement issued on April 6, 2020 cleared the air about 5G, COVID-19 and security challenges in the country. Nkemadu said there was no correlation between the 5G, COVID-19 and security. He also explained that the technology was yet to be deployed in the country.
He said: “There is no deployment of 5G in Nigeria at the moment. The NCC back in November 2019 approved trial test for 5G for a period of three months and the trial has been concluded and installation decommissioned. The trial among others was to study and observe any health or security challenges the 5G network might present. Relevant stakeholders including members of the security agencies were invited to participate during the trial. The NCC will continue to maintain its policy of technology neutrality and will continue to encourage service providers to deploy the best technology that will meet the needs of the society in a secured and friendly manner.”
Nkemadu explained that 5G was a fifth generation of mobile technology, which was an improvement on today’s 4G technology with enhanced capabilities, adding that it provides the platform for new and emerging technologies such as Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data to improve on living and work. He also explained that 5G belonged to the same class of non-ionising radiation and as such not different from those of 2G, 3G and 4G, adding that there was nothing to worry about safety and human health.
He said that safety and human health were top priorities in the design and deployment of 5G. He said that the National Frequency Management Council chaired by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, had the responsibility of allocating bulk spectrum for various services.
Prof. Umar Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, who spoke on the issue, said that the misinformation and misrepresentation of 5G technology had the potential to derail its implementation in the country. Danbatta noted that a lot of falsehoods and misinformation had been peddled both on the social media and traditional media outlets, with regard to the health and safety implications of deploying the 5G technology in Nigeria.
He decried a situation where many Nigerians and even citizens from other climes, believed that the introduction of the new technology was responsible for the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Danbatta noted that the misconception of the technology was even made worse because many journalists and telecoms consumers lacked sufficient information about the 5G technology.
He said: “The misrepresentation of 5G technology has the potential of derailing the launch of this new technology in our clime. Many Nigerians and even citizens in more civilised countries were hooked on the notion that the introduction of 5G technology was the reason behind the spread of the novel COVID-19 pandemic. This misconception was even made worse because those saddled with the responsibility of informing, educating and enlightening the average Nigerian telecom consumers were also bereft of the knowledge of this new technology and hitched a ride on the band wagon of doubters.”
Danbatta said the impact of 5G technology would be much greater than the current 4G network. While listing the benefits of the new technology, he quoted a recent report by Qualcomm, which predicted that 5G would affect the global economy and drive its growth exponentially.
Protests had been held by several groups in countries like UK, US, Belgium, Switzerland to stop and research further on the implications of this high speed energy network on human beings. As 5G wireless technology is slowly making its way across the globe, experts and stakeholders say there is no reason to be alarmed about the effects of radio frequency waves on our health. The technology comes with promises of faster browsing, streaming, and download speeds. It may seem like a natural evolution for our increasingly tech-reliant society.
They pointed out that beyond allowing us to stream the latest movies, 5G has been designed to increase capacity and reduce latency, which is the time that it takes for devices to communicate with each other.
Dogo works with the News Agency of Nigeria.