BY OUR EDITORS
From 2019 when it was widely deployed, till date, the Fifth Generation, 5G, telecommunication technology, has continued to elicit mixed reactions including some unsubstantiated reports regarding its health hazards. Indeed, 5G is the latest in the series of the wireless mobile phone technologies which, just as other mobile technologies such as 4G, 3G and 2G data, is transmitted over radio waves. Undoubtedly, these are high speed technologies that represent an innovative evolution in telecommunication standards.
As it is the case with technologies of that level of sophistication, the roll-out of the 5G has been greeted with scepticism if not mistrust. There are allegations that link it to the coronavirus (COVID-19. These concerns may not be unconnected with the fact that the 5G technologies were rolled out in China around the same time the virus was discovered.
It got to the point that the World Health Organization, WHO, had to step in to allay fears about a possible linkage between the new technology and COVID-19. In a statement, WHO said, “a large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk (and) to date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.”
It went further to add that, “Till date, and after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies. Health-related conclusions are drawn from studies performed across the entire radio spectrum but, so far, only a few studies have been carried out at the frequencies to be used by 5G.”
As should be expected, the 5G bug, literally speaking, is catching on across the globe. For instance, China Mobile, the world’s largest operator in terms of subscribers, announced in January that it has added 3.97 million 5G subscribers to its network. The operator said it ended January 2021 with a total of 168.97 million 5G subscribers, compared to 6.7 million 5G customers in January 2020.
According to a recent report, China Mobile has already deployed over 385,000 5G base stations network in China. That country, South Korea and the United States of America are among the countries that currently lead the world in building and deploying 5G technology while countries like Nigeria are concluding plans for joining the league.
Expectedly, as Nigeria prepares for its roll out, security and health concerns are repeatedly being raised over the deployment. One of such concerns over the deployment in the country was that raised by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).
Fielding questions from the Senate Committee on Communications, director of communications in office of the NSA, Bala Fakandu raised concerns over the “vulnerabilities and backdoors within the 5G network equipment.” He urged the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to carry key stakeholders along in the formulation of the policy that would guide the use of 5G in the country.
“We are concerned about the deliberate vulnerabilities and backdoors within the 5G network equipment,” the director said, and added, “That is one of the key concerns we have and this will make the infrastructure highly susceptible to eavesdropping, tracking, cyber-attacks, military and industrial espionage and other malicious activities by foreign actors”.
There is no contesting the fact that the 5G is the next evolution of the mobile communications technology which is capable of creating new opportunities for growth in the economy by enabling new and dynamic business models and opening up new opportunities and markets.
In spite of the apprehensions, we are compelled to observe that till date, there has not been any known scientific evidence suggesting that 5G poses any risks to public health and safety.
To that extent, this newspaper is of the opinion that such fears are misplaced until otherwise scientifically proven. At this point, it is only sensible that Nigeria joins other technologically advanced nations to take advantage of this innovation and apply same in the development of the country.
However, we urge the authorities and, indeed, all those involved in the 5G deployment, no matter how remote, not to ignore some of the fears raised by the office of the National Security Adviser and ensure that the necessary assurances required are guaranteed.
As a nation grappling with myriads of security challenges, Nigeria has the right to worry about infrastructures that are suspected of having any negative security implications even if remotely. To that extent, the security agencies, even if it is just to assure themselves, owe themselves a duty to demand and expect to get guarantees about the safety of the nation and her citizens.
While the security apparatus of state is at it, we believe there is an overarching need for dutiful implementation of a 5G policy that will, hopefully, take care of all security, health and safety concerns of the citizens.