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Technological developments and the multiplication of digital uses are modifying the exposure of the population to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. With the deployment of 5G, new frequency bands are being (3.5 GHz band), or will soon be used (26 GHz band). In line with its research on radiofrequencies and health, and on the basis of the scientific data available to date, ANSES considers it unlikely that the deployment of 5G in the 3.5 GHz frequency band will present a new health risk. For the 26 GHz frequency band, the data are not, at present, sufficient to conclude on the existence or not of health effects. As knowledge of the links between exposure and health effects needs to be strengthened, ANSES stresses the need for further research, and in particular, to monitor changes in the exposure of populations as the number of antennas changes and the use of networks increases. On April 20, 2021, the Agency is launching a public consultation in order to gather possible comments from the scientific community and interested stakeholders.
5G: new 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands to allow higher speeds and communications between more connected objects
The major difference between 5G and previous generation mobile networks is the much larger amount of data that should be able to be exchanged without network congestion. This new technology aims to promote the development of innovative services and new uses, both for individuals and businesses in multiple areas: virtual reality, transport, urban connections, industry, telemedicine, online education.
Beyond the exploitation of the frequency bands already used by other mobile technologies, 5G now uses the 3.5 GHz band for coverage in large geographical areas , allocated to the four mobile operators at the end of 2020. The 26 GHz band will complete the network in the next few years, particularly for communication between connected objects.
Deployment of 5G in the 700 MHz-2.1 GHz frequency band largely covered by previous ANSES research
To date, operators have mainly deployed 5G in the 700 MHz – 2.1 GHz band. This band includes frequencies used for several years by the current generations of mobile communication, 2G, 3G and 4G.
Previous work carried out by ANSES on the effects linked to exposure to electromagnetic waves in the radiofrequency range indicates that there is currently no proof of a health effect linked to electromagnetic fields sources corresponding to current digital uses. The examination of possible effects, such as the development of cancer, impaired brain function or fertility, however, continues to be the subject of research and evaluation.
For exposure levels, studies carried out internationally and by the National Frequency Agency (ANFR) show that they vary little with antennas emitting 3G, 4G or 5G signals.
Deployment of 5G in the 3.5 GHz band: new health risks unlikely
The 5G mobile telephone network in the frequency band around 3.5 GHz has recently been commercially opened in France. The resulting exposure to electromagnetic fields today is not representative of what it will be in the future.
Due to the lack of scientific data concerning possible effects at this frequency, ANSES has carried out additional investigations to identify whether exposure to different frequencies of electromagnetic radiation causes the appearance of different biological effects or in modulus. intensity. A rigorous extrapolation of the results of scientific studies carried out at different frequencies to draw conclusions about the possible effects in the frequency band around 3.5 GHz was not considered feasible by the experts.
In addition, the available data relating to exposure, particularly abroad and in studies carried out by ANFR in connection with the experiments, do not suggest, in the state of knowledge, a significant increase in exposure. exposure of the population.
In view of these elements, the Agency considers it unlikely that the deployment of 5G in the frequency band around 3.5 GHz currently poses new health risks.
Exposure to the frequency band around 26 GHz: exposures concerns the superficial layers of the organism and of a probably low level, but insufficient data to conclude whether or not a risk to health exists.
As the deployment of 5G applications in the frequency band around 26 GHz is still in the planning stages, no exposure data is currently available.
ANSES considered a widened frequency band, from 18 to 100 GHz, for which the depth of penetration of the waves is similar, to investigate the possible effects on health described in the available scientific literature. This mainly studied the effects on the skin, the eye, the membranes, the central nervous system and cells from various human or animal tissues (skin, neurons, cornea, etc.).
ANSES sought to assess the probable exposure in the 26 GHz band: it differs from other frequency bands by a much smaller depth of penetration of the waves into the body, of the order of a millimeter, exposing surface layers of the skin or eye. The available simulations suggest low exposure levels .
However, at present, the data are not sufficient to conclude whether or not there are health effects linked to exposure to electromagnetic fields in the 26 GHz band.
A need to continue producing new data and knowledge
As knowledge of the links between exposure and health effects needs to be strengthened, ANSES stresses the need for further research. Indeed, the Agency’s experts recommend characterizing the exposures and deepening our knowledge of the links between exposure and biological or health effects for new frequencies, including experimental studies. Work on 5G has led to the identification of the need to take into account new points of attention (eg signal intermittence or surface layer exposure for the 26 GHz band). It will also be particularly important to monitor the evolution of exposure as the antenna base expands and the use of networks increases.
A public consultation of the Agency’s work until June 1, 2021
In view of the societal interest in the subject and the possible rapid emergence of new data in connection with the current deployment of 5G, the Agency is launching a public consultation on April 20, 2021 in order to collect any comments from the scientific community. and interested stakeholders. A completed report and opinion, if applicable, will be published after taking into account the comments received during this consultation, which begins today for a period of 6 weeks.