The next generation of 5G handsets will need to be regulated in order to be sold in Australia, and the ACMA is looking to regulate mmWave 5G devices. But what will that mean for the 5G health concerns many people have around the emerging fifth generation mobile networks?
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is seeking to regulate the electromagnetic energy (EME) exposure from upcoming mmWave 5G devices before they start becoming part of the Australian 5G landscape.
As ITNews reports, it's doing so because of the lack of "finalised international standards on assessment methods for devices operating above 6GHz that are used in close proximity to the head or body."
So why aren't there standards? As the ACMA's consultation paper notes, while there is work being done on an international standard (IEC/IEEE 63195-1 if you're into standards codes) the pace of development could mean that devices go on sale in Australia before that standard is actually finalised.
Adopting a technical report is a departure from the ACMA’s normal approach of adopting international standards once they have been finalised. In this case, the speed with which technological development is occurring means that devices operating in close proximity to the ear or body above 6 GHz may be available in Australia before the international standard is finalised.
The technical report mentioned is (IEC TR 63170:2018), and it's the basis for the ACMA's preferred approach for measurement, but it's seeking industry consultation on the matter until March 12th.
Enough with the IEC Codes. What does all that mean for 5G health concerns?
There's an awful lot of misinformation and downright hysteria surrounding the rollout and implementation of 5G networks and devices globally, including here in Australia.
Right now, there aren't any 6GHz mmWave networks in Australia, because the actual spectrum auction for that bandwidth won't even happen until early next year. Nobody's going to sell mmWave handsets without a network, and the telcos can't and won't build a network without having regulated access to the spectrum for it to run on.
Existing 5G handsets and network equipment have to comply with strict standards laid down by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). Scary name, but an important job in making sure that equipment sold and used in Australia is indeed safe for Australians to use.
The ARPANSA standards that apply in this case are contained in the Radiation Protection Standard for Maximum Exposure Levels to Radiofrequency Fields - 3 kHz to 300 GHz (2002) and they apply not only for existing 5G handsets, but also all the 4G, 3G and even 2G handsets you've been using for many years.
What the ACMA is proposing is that the interim technical report is used as the standard against which those ARPANSA standards are tested until such a time as a full international standard is agreed upon. The TLDR version of that is that in essence nothing should change at all in terms of 5G device safety, because that's already highly measured and regulated.
Or in other words, no, the wild claims about 5G causing massive increases in cancer or other health effects are just wild claims. If you're keen to actually learn more, ARPANSA has a good explainer you can read here.
The Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research (ACEBR) at the University of Wollongong has a good fact sheet covering off the most commonly asked questions.
If you're still not happy, you can even check the actual tested EME output of any given mobile tower across Australia at the Radio Frequency National Site Archive. Compare those against the ARPANSA standards and you'll see just how safe current and future electromagnetic emissions really are.