US officials set public concerns about the health impacts of 5G aside, concluding there is nothing about the technology or the bands it operates in which would require new limits on radio frequency (RF) exposure.
After a six-year review of existing RF standards, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai proposed an order to renew them and impose new service-agnostic rules for compliance. The order would cover all sources of RF emissions, including handsets, laptops, small cells and tower operations, across all technology iterations including 3G, 4G and 5G.
The regulations aim to protect people against harmful RF exposure by limiting the acceptable amount of energy absorbed by the human body when exposed to electromagnetic fields.
On a call with journalists, senior FCC officials noted the US’ current RF standards for handheld devices in particular, are among the strictest in the world. They added a review of scientific evidence conducted by the Food and Drug Administration’s Centre for Devices and Radiological Health found no adverse health effects in humans caused by RF exposure at or under the current limits.
Many countries follow IEEE RF exposure guidelines for handheld devices, which allow 2 Watts per kilogram averaged over 10 grams of tissue. However, the FCC uses a standard of 1.6 Watts over 1 gram.
FCC officials said renewing the limits will ensure all authorised uses of RF are safe, regardless of technology or frequency employed. They added there is nothing special about 5G which would require additional protections.
Pai’s push to renew the existing FCC standard comes as operators battle public concerns about the safety of 5G and mmWave devices and equipment.
Though the move would, among other things, require some operators to change the formulas used to calculate the placement of antennas, the officials said it is not expected to represent a major shift for industry players.