Installation of Base Stations and Radiation Safety
The rollout of 5G services needs the establishment of a denser network of radio base stations and small cells to support very high-speed data transmission and ubiquitous coverage. To better understand radiation safety of mobile base stations, please read the information below:
According to the professional advice from the Department of Health (“DH”), non-ionising radiation (“NIR”) differs greatly from ionising radiation such as X-rays, nuclear radiation, etc. NIR is a type of electromagnetic radiation which has low energy that cannot change the chemical property of substances nor break the chemical bonds of human bodies to cause harm. The radiofrequency electromagnetic fields generated by radio base stations (including 5G base stations) for the provision of mobile services are a type of NIR. Other examples of NIR commonly found in our daily life are radio and TV broadcast, light and infrared rays.
The energy associated with electromagnetic radiation depends on its frequency – the higher the frequency, the greater the energy:
(the energy of a radiofrequency photon at 3GHz is about 0.00001 eV)
- cannot cause ionisation of atoms and molecules
- cannot break the chemical bonds which hold molecules together
(the energy of an X-ray photon ranges from 100 eV to 100 000 eV)
- can cause ionisation of atoms and molecules
- can break the chemical bonds which hold molecules together
The following diagram illustrates the definitions of “ionising radiation” and “non-ionising radiation”:
Radiation safety of base stations
The CA has, according to the professional advice from DH, adopted the NIR limits recommended by the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (“ICNIRP”) as the radiation safety standard.
The ICNIRP is an independent scientific commission. Its recommended NIR exposure limits are recognised by the World Health Organization (“WHO”). According to WHO, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that exposure to non-ionising radiation (including radiofrequency electromagnetic fields) below the exposure limits recommended by ICNIRP will cause any adverse health effects.
The ICNIRP limits or similar requirements on NIR safety standards are widely adopted by developed economies such as the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Australia and New Zealand, and economies with dense population such as Singapore, Japan and Korea.
MNOs are required to submit applications to the CA in accordance with the conditions of their licences before bringing their base stations into operation. The applications for using base stations are vetted by OFCA, the executive arm of the CA. Apart from examining the radiation level of each individual base station, OFCA will also conduct a technical assessment of the total radiation level at the locations of the base stations concerned to ensure that the total radiation level is in compliance with the radiation safety standards before granting approval for the application. In addition, MNOs are required to provide OFCA with measurement reports within one month from the commencement of operation of their base stations to demonstrate that the radiation levels comply with the safety standards.
Members of the public may call the hotline of OFCA at 2961 6648 if they are concerned about the non-ionising radiation generated by the base stations in their neighbourhood. OFCA will conduct on-site measurements of radiation levels upon requests by members of the public and explain to them the measurement results. Also, OFCA will initiate sample checks on the approved base stations to ensure that their non-ionising radiation levels comply with the safety standards.