Constituents regularly contact me regarding a wide variety of issues relating to 5G technology. I have tried to address these in my response below.
I believe it is vital that the UK has the digital infrastructure to compete and grow in a modern economy. The Government is committed to making the UK a world leader in 5G.
5G is the next generation of wireless communications technology. It is expected to provide faster connections with much higher capacity and very fast response times, allowing many more users and devices to access fast internet connections and large amounts of data simultaneously. Mobile broadband is the first commercial application, but it is also expected to be used in healthcare, smart cities, transport and manufacturing.
Improving and extending the coverage of mobile connectivity is essential for people and businesses across the UK, and will aid economic growth in rural communities. I am confident its implementation will help increase prosperity at every level.
Impacts of 5G on health
5G is likely to be rolled out as part of a patchwork of technologies, including those already in use (4G, Wi-Fi, 5G new radio etc). I am aware that some people are concerned about the potential health risks of a 5G network.
Considerable research has been carried out on radio waves and the Government does not anticipate any negative effects on public health. Technical standards are expected to be followed throughout the development of 5G products and networks.
Public Health England (PHE), an executive agency to the Department of Health and Social Care, provides advice to the Government on public health issues. PHE updated its guidance document on Mobile phone base stations: radio waves and health in May 2019. This provides an overview on radio waves from mobile phone base stations, different generations of mobile technology and the research that has been undertaken internationally on this issue. It states that international and UK expert groups have examined the accumulated evidence base and “their conclusions support the view that health effects are unlikely to occur if exposures [to radio waves] are below international guideline levels.” PHE states that it continues to monitor the health related evidence on radio waves, and commits to updating its advice as required. Further detail about the research on radio waves and health is provided in the July 2019 POSTbrief, 5G Technology.
Planning and the Environment
On the subject of natural beauty and visual pollution, national planning policy specifies that the number of masts and sites should be kept to a minimum. I have been assured that recommendations from National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty will be considered.
National Security and Huawei
The Government’s decision on Huawei and other high risk vendors was taken on the basis of national security. Widespread deployment of 5G and full fibre networks is of course a primary objective of Government policy, however I am clear that this must not be achieved in a way that compromises our national security. I know that Ministers share this view.
It is essential that our digital networks are both secure and resilient, and this is why the Government undertook a comprehensive review of the supply arrangements in our 5G and full fibre networks. The Review concluded that it will be necessary to put in place additional controls on high risk vendors, such as Huawei, that pose a higher risk to our 5G and full fibre networks. For both of these networks, high risk vendors should be excluded from those parts of the network that are critical to security. The presence of high risk vendors should also be limited in other parts of those networks, such as sensitive geographic locations.
I am pleased that national security is the foremost consideration. It will allow us to deliver world leading digital infrastructure, meaning our economy will be best placed to take advantage of the many opportunities of the digital economy.
Further, I understand that the market share of high risk vendors will be reduced as market diversification takes place. In January, the National Security Council made the decision to exclude Huawei technology from the more sensitive parts of our 5G network – only allowing it to supply peripheral components such as mobile phone masts and antennae.
For further impartial information on 5G, I would recommend the House of Commons research paper of 6 September 2019 which is available at this link https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-7883/#fullreport
The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) report on the Cyber Security of UK Infrastructure https://post.parliament.uk/research-briefings/post-pn-0554/
You may also wish to take part in the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry into Broadband and the rollout of 5G which closes on 19 June 2020 https://committees.parliament.uk/work/89/broadband-and-the-road-to-5g/