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Adebayo: We must step up awareness on safety of 5G technology, devices

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Adebayo

Gbenga Adebayo is the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), the umbrella body for telecom service providers in the country. In this interview with ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, said the are no scientific evidence to confirm that 5G network technology is unsafe for public use.

How do you think the brouhaha generated by the 5G technology would impact its deployment and acceptability?
The situation demands more public enlightenment on the safety of mobile communications networks and devices. It’s a rapidly changing sector and because of the speed of innovation; the novelty of artificial intelligence, public anxiety is not unexpected, but stakeholders need to increase public awareness about public health and provide assurances for users about their safety in relation to telecom infrastructure.

Are fears being expressed by Nigerians and others against this technology valid?
There is no scientific evidence to justify those fears, and technology, as we know it, is science, and science is based on empirical evidence. Science is not fiction. Therefore any such fears can only hold if there are outcomes of studies to justify such. So far, there are no such concerns, so the public is very safe with mobile networks, their uses, and applications.

How does this controversial 5G technology operate?
Mobile network signals are transmitted as electromagnetic waves at levels that are within safe limits of transmission exposure.

The Fifth Generation technology also called 5G will be the successor protocol of the current 4G, which is a mobile communication protocol that has been proven to be safe and reliable, to meet the contemporary demand of technology and high-speed Internet. The incoming 5G technology will use small cells, or low-power, low-range transmissions, and 5G smart antennas in send signals where required at very high speed, with minimal latency between these cells, which will enable better and efficient use of signals, with increased data speed, better coverage, and higher efficiency.

Looking at gaps that still exist in the deployment of 4G technology; can we still say Nigeria is ready for innovations associated with 5G?
A lot more work still needs to be done; more infrastructure to be deployed as most parts of the country are still on the Third Generation (3G) technology. So, the destination for us is still a bit far, but we need to continue with it slowly but safely. And to do so at highest, best standard for the safety of all, per international best standards.

Nigeria arguably missed out greatly in the previous industrial revolutions (first, second, and third) and now 4IR. With 5G envisioned to be a major driver of 41R, what can the country do in order not to miss these opportunities again?
We need to do more work on our public utilities and supporting infrastructure viz power, road, air, rail, and water transportation, etc. By this, we would have a better spread of industries, provide jobs, and provide social guarantees that would drive innovation and technological development.

Telecom is not the only infrastructure for industrial revolution, rather it is the infrastructure that supports other sectors and for us to be part of the next industrial revolution, we must address our entire national, industry, and economic infrastructure.

Will the deployment of the 5G technology require the implantation of microchips in humans?
Not from the information available to date.

What kind of radiation will 5G technology emit?
Non-ionizing radiation, which is in the band considered safe for humans, it is the same category of radiation for several domestic appliances such as FM radio receiver sets, television sets, light bulbs.

Several domestic equipment is within the non-ionizing radiation, and there is an international agency (which we are members of that is responsible for the regulation of non-ionizing radiation), whose task is to set the standards for all systems within this band.

Is there any link between 5G and COVID-19?
There is no link between them. 5G is a mobile network protocol standard for mobile communications, transmitted via electromagnetic waves, while COVID-19 is said to be a virus that is spread through contact with an infected person, and cannot be transmitted via radio waves. So, there is no link between electromagnetic waves and COVID -19, which is a viral disease.

The unanimous conclusion of international public health organisations and more than 25, 000 articles on biological and health effects reaffirm the safe use of wireless technologies such as telecommunication antennas necessary for connectivity, social and economic development.

There is no scientific evidence to support the various claims that are flying across the globe, even in Nigeria. Some people make just claims with no empirical evidence to support it.

Some people are comfortable, but who are used to doing things that are capable of stirring controversies. Science is not fiction; fiction is not science. So, as long as you cannot support any claim with empirical evidence, it is not scientific. So, all the arguments that they are bringing forward would fall flat because they cannot be proved. If they insist on sticking to their claims, they should first disconnect themselves (from the Internet) as an example to the world. We need to appeal to the public to listen to what these people are saying, but let common sense prevail.

How soon do you see 5G deployment in the country going by the sustained conspiracy theories against the initiative?
At the moment, there are no live 5G networks in Nigeria since it has not been approved for commercial deployment by the Nigeria Communications Commission.

The regulator will normally provide the framework and guidelines after a review of reports of the concluded successful field trials in Abuja and Lagos.

We have done two trials and the government has yet to come up with any policy on 5G deployment. No operator, at this time in the country is operating 5G network. The fact must be said that no regulation in the world will compel you to accept technology that you don’t want; what it means is that you would be behind other countries of the world.

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Are there other technologies that have a higher or larger concentration of radiation?
X-radiation, nuclear radiation, and those in that category of waves that emit much higher radiation, and telecommunication are not in such range.

In these unprecedented times, there is a need to ensure the resilience of telecommunication networks to support the delivery of vital health services and sustained economic recovery.

Digital connectivity has become essential to the social and economic development of the 21st century. Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), 5G networks, and the Internet of Things (IoT) generate great opportunities, but also raise questions for businesses and citizens. One of these concerns is public health.

In recent years, questions about health and safety concerning electromagnetic frequencies produced by telecommunication towers have been raised. What are the health implications of this proliferation of antennas and what they emit? What effects do they have on humans and animals? Can they cause any disorders?

Public exposure to these frequencies is not new. On the contrary, these radio signals are nearly omnipresent as they have been produced by electric currents, or telecommunication antennas for decades. The average household deploys various sources of these signals. Home appliances like microwaves, TV sets, refrigerators, or Internet connections repeatedly send this out throughout the day.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the low intensity of cell site emissions is estimated to be between 0.002 percent and 2 percent of the levels of safe exposure and is lower than those produced by a radio or TV transmission. Studies carried out by the WHO, and the International Agency for Research on
Cancer (IARC) agree there are no health risks related to radio signals.

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How are the operators strengthening the networks, especially during this sit-at-home era because subscribers are complaining of slower data services and an increase in drop calls?
I must say that operators are doing their best in ensuring that networks operate at an optimal level at this time, and in the future. We are also deploying more capacity to provide higher headroom to cope with demands. By and large, we thank the subscribers and the government for their continuous support and understanding.

We appreciate all subscribers for their patronage and consistency. If there were no subscribers, the telecom sector would not exist. The challenges in the telecom industry are not isolated from the larger industry, the issue of power and security, vandalism, theft, right of way, over regulation, and multiple taxations, among others.

The problems that we face are like those faced by any other sectors of the economy, and we would continue to assure telecom subscribers that these problems are gradually passing, as we continue to work with all stakeholders for better service delivery. It must be mentioned that we need to work together to protect telecoms infrastructure because that is what other sectors rely on and by extension the economy as a whole. Telecom is infrastructure of infrastructure.

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