Fifth of consumers in Ireland worry 5G has 'health risks'

08 December 2020 3 min. read

A new study of Irish consumers has found that around 20% believe there are health risks associated with 5G technology. Despite this, the age group where such beliefs were most prevalent were also the keenest to take up 5G, with those aged under 35 years making up almost half of all 5G usage in Ireland.

Every decade or so, a new generation of network technology comes along that promises more speed, more capacity, more quality and more uses. With each generation, network operators invest capital to upgrade their infrastructure, with the firm belief that those investments will lead to more satisfied customers and reinvigorated revenues and profits. While the leaps to 3G and 4G were more noticeable, 5G New Radio speed in sub-6 GHz bands is said to be ‘modestly higher’ than 4G, with a similar amount of spectrum and antennae, and is estimated at a 15% to 50% improvement.

At least at its lower frequencies, then, 5G is evolutionary, in contrast to its revolutionary predecessors. For this reason, according to a new report from consulting firm Bain & Company, there is significant scepticism among business leaders regarding 5G. At the same time, the roll out of 5G has been beset with problems. The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly delayed the implementation of the new technology – while adding a new layer of difficulty. After months of conspiracy theories relating to 5G’s unproven link to coronavirus infections, a significant portion of society now has reservations regarding the health impact it has.

Ignorance about 5G

According to a new study from Deloitte, while Ireland compares favourably in terms of 5G network roll-out, with three operators now having active 5G networks with coverage from 30-50% of the population by early-2021, one-fifth of Irish consumers believe there are health risks associated with 5G. This rises even further among younger consumers, with 27% in the 18-24 year old category and 28% in the 25-34 year old category citing health concerns relating to 5G. This is far higher than the UK where only 15% of the 18-24 year olds and 18% of the 25-34 year olds believe that here are health risks associated with 5G.

While the statistics might be cause for alarm in some quarters, however, they may simply be a signifier of how cautious people have become regarding their health during lockdown. Reservations about 5G may then emulate from many respondents simply not feeling they know enough about the technology to be comfortable with it. According to Deloitte, 64% of respondents feel they do not yet know enough about 5G and most likely the benefits it brings. However, the firm also found that the feeling of not knowing enough about 5G was elevated among older respondents – 74% among 55-64 year olds and 71% among 65–75 year olds – who were less likely to foster health concerns about 5G.

A greater proportion of young respondents believe that there are health risks associated with 5G

At the same time, while younger respondents were more likely to believe 5G comes with health risks, they are also the most common users of the technology. Almost half of all 5G users in Ireland are in the Dublin area and aged under 35 years, suggesting that there will still be plenty of demand for its roll out.

Deloitte concluded, “While it is concerning that 20% believe (mistakenly) that there are health risks associated with 5G, this is lower than in other European countries surveyed. Notably, over a third of respondents in Austria and Belgium believe that there are health risks associated with 5G.”