5G In-depth Analysis for ITRE Committee

Policy Department A at the request of the ITRE Committee *1 prepared in 2019 an in-depth analysis named 5G Deployment State of Play in Europe, USA and Asia *2 which compared the deployment of 5G in the EU with other leading economies. This study was the basis for later briefing Effects of 5G wireless communication on human health *3 which was released in 2020.

The operators and suppliers of mobile industry promise that 5G will bring advance in speed and reliability to mobile devices, advanced manufacturing, better healthcare systems, smart cities, connected vehicles. We would like to highlight important facts contained in these and related documents:

  • The cost of meeting the European Union’s connectivity goals for 2025, including 5G coverage in all urban areas, set out in its Communication on Connectivity for a Competitive Digital Single Market - Towards a European Gigabit Society, is estimated at €500 billion. Given the scale of the investment needed, the mobile industry needs to convince governments of the economic and social benefits that 5G might bring and, consequently, marketing hype is widespread. *2, page 7
  • The aim to cover all urban areas, railways and major roads with uninterrupted fifth generation wireless communication can only be achieved by creating a very dense network of antennas and transmitters.” *3, page 1
  • "The planned 5G networks are expected to serve up to one million connected devices per square kilometre, about a one thousand fold increase as compared to today.” *4, page 6
  • For the first time, 5G will use millimetre waves in addition to the microwaves that have been used to date in 2G, 3G and 4G technology. Due to the limited coverage, to implement 5G, cell antennas will have to be installed very close to one another, which will result in constant exposure of the population to millimetre wave radiation. Use of 5G will also require new technologies to be employed, such as active antennas capable of beam-forming, massive inputs and outputs. Which would make measuring radiation exposures even more difficult. With higher frequencies and shortened ranges, base stations will be more closely packed into a given area to give complete coverage that avoids “not-spots”. Ranges of 20-150 metres may be typical, giving smaller coverage areas per “small cell”. A cell radius of 20 metres would imply about 800 base stations per square kilometre (or small area wireless access points (SAWAPs), the term used in the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC)). This contrasts with 3G and 4G which use large or “macro” cells. Traditionally they offer ranges of 2-15 km or more and so can cover a larger area but with fewer simultaneous users as they have fewer individual channels.*2, page 3
  • As 5G employs a very high level of pulsations, the idea behind 5G is to use higher frequencies, which allows such high levels of pulsation, in order to carry very large amounts of information per second. Studies show that pulsed EMF are in most cases more biologically active and therefore more dangerous than non-pulsed EMF. Every single wireless communication device communicates at least partially via pulsations, and the smarter the device, the more pulsations.” *3, page 5
  • Along with the mode and duration of exposures, characteristics of the 5G signal such as pulsing seem to increase the biologic and health impacts of exposure, including DNA damage, which is considered to be a cause of cancer. DNA damage is also linked to reproductive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.” *3, page 5
  • "Millimetre waves, which will be employed by 5G, are mostly absorbed within a few millimetres of human skin and in the surface layers of the cornea. Short-term exposure can have adverse physiological effects in the peripheral nervous system, the immune system and the cardiovascular system." *3, page 11
  • This raises the question as to whether there is a negative impact on human health and environment from higher frequencies and billions of additional connections, which, according to research, will mean constant exposure for the whole population, including children.*3, page 1
  • Primary responsibility for protecting the population from the potential harmful effects of EMF falls to the governments of EU Member States under Article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.” *3, page 4 However, the EU is urging Member States to increase the limits of permissible exposure as is seen in the 5G Action Plan for Europe *4 which was adopted in 2016.

The main objective of the action plan is to roll out these technologies across the EU as rapidly as possible. The 5G Action Plan for Europe does not mention health aspects at all and exposure limits of RF EMF in the Member States are identified as barriers - limits are sometimes much lower (i.e. safer) than required by the relevant European directive on health protection, therefore they impose greater restrictions on aggregation (i.e. the action of multiple signals simultaneously). These barriers are intended to be removed by harmonising the rules, which implies increasing the exposure limits across the Member states if countries have stricter limits (i.e. safer) than European standards (point 3.3., section Reducing the cost of installing access points). *4, page 6

For urban coverage with 5G small cells, EU advices member states to enable a unified EU approach to antenna densification.

In the chapter Factors for 5G Success is mentioned: “After technology capability, key factor of success will be the ease with which a large number of small cells can be deployed in densifying the network. China and the Asian Tigers have an advantage here because their political structures and culture mean that they can mandate deployment without the need for public assent.” *2, page 24

We can see similar behaviour to Asian tigers as the EU plans to rapidly deploy hundreds of small cells per square kilometre as “in line with EECC Article 57, EU is crafting a regime for SAWAP deployment, aiming for permit-free installation from 2020.” *2, page 24

In document Light deployment regime for Small-Area Wireless Access Points (SAWAPs) it was mentioned that pursuant to Article 57 of the EECC *7 the EU Commission services are preparing a first Commission Implementing Act on small-area wireless access points (SAWAPs or ‘small cells’), "that will be exempted from any individual town planning permit or other prior individual permits, except for environmental or historical reasons or public safety” *5. Its adoption was targeted for Q2/2020, in compliance with the deadline of 30 June 2020 in the EECC *7

Regulation (EU) 2020/1070 introduced in point (8) “base stations divided into five installation classes corresponding to different limits of their equivalent isotropical radiated power (EIRP) of a few milliwatt (Class E0), 2 Watt (Class E2), 10 Watt (Class E10), 100 Watt (Class E100) and above 100 Watt (Class E+)*6 and installation safety distances which “requires that the lowest radiating part of the antenna of a Class E10 has a height of at least 2,2 metres above the general public walkway to ensure a distance of at least 20 cm between the main antenna lobe and the human body of a 2 m tall person” and in point (9) “For aestetic reasons, the indoor installation of small-area wireless access points of Class E10, which are likely to utilise the maximum volume limit of 20 litres, should be limited to large indoor places with a ceiling height of at least 4 metres, such as museums, stadiums, convention centres, airports, metro-transport stations, railway stations, or shopping centres.

We are deeply concerned about the findings contained in the documents:

  • Significant concern is emerging over the possible impact on health and safety arising from potentially much higher exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation arising from 5G. Increased exposure may result not only from the use of much higher frequencies in 5G but also from the potential for the aggregation of different signals, their dynamic nature, and the complex interference effects that may result, especially in dense urban areas. The 5G radio emission fields are quite different to those of previous generations because of their complex beamformed transmissions in both directions – from base station to handset and for the return. Although fields are highly focused by beams, they vary rapidly with time and movement and so are unpredictable, as the signal levels and patterns interact as a closed loop system. This has yet to be mapped reliably for real situations, outside the laboratory.*2, page 11
  • SCHEER in Statement on emerging health and environmental issues (2018) on page 14 “indicated a preliminary estimate of the importance of 5G as high, in a statement in December 2018. Furthermore, it evaluates the scale, urgency and interactions (with ecosystems and species) of possible hazard as high.” *3, page 5
  • Council of Europe Resolution 1815 (2011) points to the potential health effects of the very low frequency of electromagnetic fields surrounding power lines and electrical devices, which are the subject of ongoing research and public debate. It also states that some non-ionising frequencies appear to have more or less potentially harmful, non-thermal, biological effects on humans, other animals and plants, even when exposed to levels that are below the official threshold values. The resolution identifies young people and children as particularly vulnerable groups and suggests that there could be extremely high human and economic costs if early warnings are neglected.” *3, page 5
  • ...this is doubly salient regarding the possible negative health impacts due to the inescapability of constant exposure of citizens in a 5G environment. The recent academic literature illustrates that continuous wireless radiation seems to have biological effects especially considering the particular characteristics of 5G: the combination of millimetre waves, a higher frequency, the quantity of transmitters and the quantity of connections. Various studies suggest that 5G would affect the health of humans, plants, animals, insects, and microbes – and as 5G is an untested technology, a cautious approach would be prudent. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Helsinki Accords and other international treaties recognise that informed consent prior to interventions that might affect human health is an essential, fundamental human right, which becomes even more controversial when considering children's and young people's exposure.*3, page 9
  • According to the 2019 study '5G deployment: State of Play in Europe, USA and Asia' prepared for the European Parliament, long-term technology research is essential. 'One key problem is the unusual propagation phenomena, especially controlling and measuring radio frequency EMF exposure with Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) at millimetre wave frequencies for the handset and the base station. The study states that the main problem seems to be that it is not currently possible to accurately simulate or measure 5G emissions in the real world.*3, page 9
  • The European Commission has not yet conducted studies on the potential health risks of the 5G technology.*3, page 9

1 European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy

2 5G Deployment: State of play in Europe, USA and Asia

3 Effects of 5G wireless communication on human health

4 5G for Europe: An Action Plan, 2016;

5 Public Consultation on the light deployment regime for small-area wireless access points


7 Directive (EU) 2018/1972 establishing the European Electronic Communication Code

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