Brussels inches towards easing 5G radiation rules

The regional parliament in Brussels has taken a small step towards easing rules on radiation that could pave the way for the introduction of 5G services.

The move, which could see the current limit on permissible levels of radiation from phone masts more than doubled, is good news for both mobile operators looking to roll out 5G and the region’s would-be consumers of the technology. However it also has a broader significance: a change in the law in Brussels will remove some of the fuel from the fire of 5G conspiracy theorists, who continue to argue that the technology is bad for our health and that of the environment.

A consultation committee of 45 citizens and 15 parliamentarians have spent the past month examining the issues surrounding 5G rollout in the Brussels region, looking at environmental and health aspects, the economy, employment and the technology itself. On Saturday the group voted on a series of proposals, leaving the regional government with 43 recommendations to consider.

The headline recommendations are in the area of health, chief amongst which is the call to set an emissions standard of 14.5 volts per meter or less, up from the current limit of 6 V/m; this would enable the development of 5G, but would mean a limit on the number of antennas that could be deployed, thereby minimising the impact on health and the environment, the government explained. The committee also proposes the establishment of an independent monitoring body – part-financed by the telcos – to map the effects of radiation on health.

It’s a timely, if still fairly restrictive announcement, with Belgium looking to auction off 5G licences in spring next year. The Brussels parliament now has six months to examine the proposals and decide on the next steps. As it stands, 5G services are limited in Belgium, with incumbent Proximus having launched services in certain markets in which radiation limits are higher than in the Brussels region. But radiation limits or otherwise, full 5G rollouts will have to wait until after next year’s multi-band spectrum sale.

In the meantime, all eyes, in Belgium and further afield, will be on the Brussels parliament and the steps it chooses to take regarding those proposals to push up radiation limits.

The fact that the home of the European Union effectively put a block on 5G on radiation grounds was a godsend for the technology’s naysayers, lending credence to arguments about the dangers of 5G masts. What the 5G mast-burners – those actually setting light to telecoms towers and armchair arsonists alike – failed to recognise, or indeed wilfully ignored, was that Brussels’ radiation regs have been around for a long time and are significantly tighter than those in place elsewhere in Belgium, which are in turn more stringent than in other EU markets. Brussels became the accidental poster child for the 5G health hazard.

With the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommending a maximum exposure of 41.2 V/m, according the Brussels Times, and Belgium’s Flanders region putting its own limit at 20 V/m, it’s pretty clear that the capital’s current rules are some way outside the norm.

Taking steps to change that, albeit in a fairly conservative way, sends a positive message to the rest of Europe on the dangers, or otherwise, of 5G to health.

And Brussels’ residents might actually gain access to the latest mobile technology too.

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