mmWave Safety Overview
Learn about Fixed 5G safety and common misconceptions about the technology and its impact on our health
Wireless evolution tends to face additional hurdles as people are always concerned about radiation. Fortunately, as has been demonstrated over the years with 2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G these concerns are not warranted. mmWave networks are the future of wireless, and will be the backbone of gigabit wireless networks around the world delivering gigabits for all. There have been concerns that operating in higher frequencies is somehow inherently unsafe or not healthy. Fortunately, numerous studies conducted about 4G and 5G by government health and safety agencies around the world have shown these concerns are not warranted, such as this recent one from the US FDA
Fixed 5G Safety Introduction
5G is a term that started with one very precise definition, but over the past year has expanded in scope. Today when people talk about 5G and its benefits, they tend to focus on 5G NR which is the new mobile standard that was released recently.
5G NR has some fancy differences in how the data is transferred when compared to 4G LTE, but more of note are the frequency bands it will operate in. 5G NR as a mobile standard will for the first time operate in 28GHz and 38GHz, licensed bands that Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) use for their networks. Other “5G” technologies operate in even higher frequencies, 60GHz (V band) and 70/80GHz (E bands). These “Fixed 5G” frequencies are either unlicensed (V Band) or lightly licensed (E Band) around the world and are used for gigabit, fixed wireless Wide Area Networks.
Dispelling Common Misconceptions
There have been concerns that operating in higher frequencies is somehow inherently unsafe or not healthy. On the contrary, these frequencies penetrate the human body dramatically less than 4G LTE radio waves do today. Indeed, this article from the NY Times makes that point – higher frequency waves have less skin penetration than low frequency waves. Fixed 5G which operates in the 60GHz band is even higher in frequency and hence less of a health concern. Not only do the systems being deployed in 60GHz have less penetrating ability, the power levels and how close they are to the human body is substantially less than a typical cellular phone.
A Siklu 60Ghz radio, either EtherHaul or MultiHaul, operates at a peak power of 15dBm and is outside your house or place of business. In contrast your cellular phone which you hold next to your head, puts out 22dBm, your home AP 25dBm and your laptop Wi-Fi 15dBm.
5G NR Today
While it is always prudent to be careful when new technology is presented, in this case the science clearly shows 5G, either NR or fixed, operating in the mmWave bands is if anything safer than exiting mobile systems today. Systems which have themselves been studied and determined to be safe. Indeed, anecdotal evidence of this abounds just by considering the widespread regulatory acceptance of 60GHz globally.
The FCC, ETSI (EU) and Ofcom (UK) to name three of the largest regulators around the world have deemed 60GHz safe and have authorized its use. More countries by the month are opening up these bands as they conclude that 1) there is no health danger to the populace, and 2) the societal benefit from being able to rapidly deploy gigabit networks to the underserved around the world is too powerful to delay.
This does not take into account the Mobile 5G frequencies of 28GHz and 38GHz that are allowed virtually everywhere in the world 5G is being deployed
Introducing new technology is never easy, and requires that the benefit be enough of an improvement over the previous generation to warrant the money and effort. This is especially true when we consider advances in wireless communications. It is well understood from Wi-Fi and Mobile networks that easy access to high speed wireless networks turbo charges economies and levels the playing field for all to access. It is easy to see how this is also true with mmWave Fixed 5G networks in the 60GHz band. Being unlicensed accelerates deployments, and drives massive capacity increases in the last mile access networks.
Lastly, the growing evidence surrounding the safety of mmWave frequencies explains the growing regulatory acceptance around the world when it comes to using the 60 GHz band for Gigabit-speed networks. It should be noted that health and technology regulators in all countries take this matter very seriously – it is not a “free for all” and they are all watching over and approving literally each new type of radio that enters the market. As a result, leading regulators such as the FDA and FCC in the US, ETSI in the EU and Ofcom in the UK all have deemed 60GHz safe and have authorized its use.