There has been much hype and fear surrounding the roll-out of the fifth generation (5G) mobile services by the mobile phone operators. Unfortunately some fibre optics engineers have been caught up in this fear, uncertainty and doubt spread by a number of internet sources. These sources are often ill-informed, and so it is hoped that a short statement by The Fibreoptic Industry Association may be useful to our members.
5G and Radio Waves
Mobile telephone signals are radio waves that propagate through the atmosphere from mobile telephones and mobile phone transmitters. These radio waves are not used in, or transmitted via, optical fibres.
Optical Fibre Signal Transmission
Optical fibre signal transmission works by sending light down the centre of the fibre from a light source to an optical detector. The power of the light signal launched into an optical fibre is typically very low at around a milli-Watt (mW). This is much lower than the power levels associated with other common light sources encountered in everyday life.
Public Safety with Optical Fibre Communication Systems
The low launched optical power levels and the method of transmission within a fibre means that an optical fibre communication system in normal use will radiate no detectable power to a by-stander equipped with the most sensitive possible detection equipment.
Indeed it could be argued that an optical fibre communication system radiates less than all other commonly used communications systems and is therefore amongst the most secure and safe for the general public.
Radio Masts and Base Stations
Radio masts are erected to provide radio, TV, mobile phone and other services to an area. In order to do this they must radiate some power in the form of radio waves, and this has been done safely for many years.
It should be considered that radio masts at base stations carry emergency calls. They ensure that the public can call for assistance and emergency services can get vital information to police, ambulance, hospitals, fire and rescue services in addition to relatives and other members of the public.
The radio wave frequencies used and power levels employed are controlled by government via a licensing system. The effects of radio waves on the human body have been studied intensively and these studies are used to inform the licensing system.
For more information on 5G wireless systems and radio wave safety the concerned or interested party is referred to the UK government website here.
and the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection here.
Key points in summary
· Radio waves are not used in, or transmitted via, optical fibres.
· Optical fibre signal transmission sends pulses of light along the centre of the fibre from a light source to an optical detector.
· Optical fibre cables do not propagate radio waves.
· Radio masts carry your emergency services calls, and allow the services to communicate with you and between themselves.
· Telecommunications is one of the critical sectors in new government regulations and legislation in response to dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.
About the FIA
The FIA is an independent trade association. Our aim is to promote high standards of service within the fibreoptic industry and to represent its members at a national and international level. We have no links or ties with any government organisations, but rather we work for the benefit of our members and the fibre optics industry.