The city of Lille in Hauts-de-France has suspended permission for any further deployment of 5G pending the 2021 publication of a report on the technology’s safety.
Mayor Martine Aubry confirmed the council’s decision in a tweet, saying: “Because our doubts exist from a health point of view and the digital implications of the deployment of 5G, we have voted for a moratorium. It is urgent to wait.”
The decision has been made pending the publication of a 2021 report on the health implications of 5G, set to be released by health and safety body, l’Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l'alimentation, de l'environnement et du travail (Anses).
Parce que nos doutes persistent tant du point de vue sanitaire que de la sobriété numérique sur le déploiement de la 5G, nous avons voté au Conseil Municipal de @lillefrance ce soir un moratoire. Il est urgent d’attendre ! pic.twitter.com/DWAnwtOQsb— Martine Aubry (@MartineAubry) October 9, 2020
Council ministers added: “Before we can confirm that 5G is a real sign of progress in our towns and for our inhabitants, it appears to us that there are a few unknowns on which we still need to shed light.
“The official reports over these past few months do not allow us to exclude any real risk on populations, linked to exposure to this new technology.”
Ministers also questioned the validity of investing so much money in the new technology “within the difficult financial context” due to the Covid-19 epidemic. They also debated the “usefulness in reality” of the technology, which they said would cause businesses and individuals to have to “renew their electronic products at the expense of any consideration of their durability”.
The decision will prevent any “authorisation of installation or turning on of ‘test’ antennas linked to 5G [within the Lille city area], at least until the publication of the report expected in 2021 from Anses”.
Council ministers requested that the wider metropolitan area of Lille - la métropole européenne de Lille (MEL) - follow their lead and take a similar position on the technology.
Contrasting opinions on 5G
The decision in Lille comes after the city of Bordeaux imposed a moratorium on the technology in September, and called on the government for a report detailing its processes on 5G frequencies.
But nationally, the government has not voted to stop the development of 5G, despite a proposal and open letter in September from around 70 MPs calling for a nationwide moratorium.
Proponents of 5G say it will offer super-fast connectivity and provide multiple benefits for businesses and industries such as healthcare.
But critics say that it may cause environmental and health damage - despite an existing report by numerous agencies in France concluding that “no study has conclusively shown that [5G] could cause cancer”.
The technology has also been at the centre of several discredited conspiracy theories, including one that linked it to the spread of Covid-19.
Yet, a further study into the issue by several national agencies, including frequency watchdog l’Agence Nationale des Fréquences (ANFR), found that the levels recorded for 5G were 50 to 1,000 times lower than the limits currently recommended to protect human health.
In mid-September, President Macron controversially said that critics of 5G appeared to want the country to follow “an Amish model” and “return to the days of oil lamps”. Instead, he said that France “will adopt 5G…[as] the country of Light, the country of innovation”, and would “turn away from any false ideas”.
France opened the country’s 5G frequencies to auction to the four major mobile operators on September 29.
The auction had previously been scheduled for mid-April, but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The allocation of the first 5G frequencies has already brought in €2.786billion to the state, with operator Orange having so far acquired the majority of the “blocks” available.
First Huawei factory outside of China will make antennas in France
The decision from Lille also comes as Chinese technology giant Huawei confirmed that it is set to open its first factory outside of China in Grand Est, in France.
The move is expected to create at least 500 jobs, and Huawei is expected to invest at least €200million in the project, and as much as €4billion in France overall.
President of the group, Liang Hua, said in February: “[This future site] will initially make radio equipment [such as antennas] and will then extend to other products in future, depending on the needs of the market.”
Jean Rottner, president of the Grand Est region, told newspaper Le Parisien: “We have been working with the Chinese company for several months on this. Huawei has set its sights on Alsace thanks to its geographical attractiveness, and has pre-selected five sites.”
Yet, the project has attracted controversy due to reticence over 5G.
Jeanne Barseghian, mayor of Strasbourg and member of ecology and green party EELV, said that she was against the technology coming to France, and in mid-September told newspaper le Journal du Dimanche: “This decision has been made without any study on its climate or environmental impact.”
A meeting between Huawei directors and Strasbourg officials is set to take place tomorrow (Monday October 12), with a view to evaluating the ecological impact of the future site.