French NGOs demand stop to ‘out of control’ 5G network

A group of French NGOs is calling for a moratorium on the rolling out of new super-fast mobile phone cellular network 5G in France, saying it could cause “out of control” consequences for society.

Published Last updated

NGOs including Agir Pour l'Environnement and Priartém-Electrosensibles de France have come out against the new technology, saying that its use will lead to physical and mental health problems, environmental issues, and could even negatively impact social freedom.

It has been suggested that the 5G network, which is set to allow very large amounts of data to be sent and accessed using mobile devices, will be “revolutionary”.

In future, its super-fast abilities mean it could be linked to new technology such as self-driving cars, surgery done remotely, and a wider Internet of Things (in which homes are connected to the Internet, for example, to control automatic lights, heating, smart fridges, smart TVs etc).

In France, 5G was officially announced on July 15 this year, with businesses in large towns and cities set to receive the coverage by the end of 2020, and two-thirds of individuals expected to be covered by 2026.

But in a statement, the NGOs said that introducing the technology could “push the planet and our society into a world with out-of-control consequences”.

It said: “Digital wireless communication technology has already had impacts that are not virtual: risks for our physical and mental health, hyperconnection with the world of work, and among young people; impact on the soil, landscapes and ecosystems, a growing energy bill, wasting of resources, risks from big data on our freedoms, lobbying weight on science and public politics…”

The statement said that 5G would “irrefutably aggravate these facts”.

The group is now calling for a halt to 5G development and rollout in France, at least until a public debate can be held on its use.

It said: “Developing a system that will cause lasting changes to the electromagnetic environment of our planet, to interactions between people and machines, and the wider workings of our society cannot be possible without deep consideration and debate from citizens.”

The possible impact of 5G on certain health conditions has been acknowledged by health authorities including French health and environmental agency (Agence Nationale de Sécurité Sanitaire de l'Alimentation, de l'Environnement et du Travail) Anses.

In 2016, it found that the radio frequencies of technology such as 5G could cause problems - for certain people - with memory, attention, and coordination. At the time, Anses recommended that young people limit their exposure to portable devices, tablets, and internet-connected toys.

In 2018, the agency also recognised that some people were reporting health problems linked to electromagnetic fields and waves, although it did add that this did not prove that there was a real link.

And this year, a group of 170 scientists raised concerns about the possible effects of 5G - and the higher frequencies it requires to work, which may be up to ten times’ higher than those used now - to the European Union.

Yet, there are already international guidelines in place over the use of maximum frequencies and their impact on health, with the limit currently at 300 GHz, which is much higher than those set to be used for 5G.

In France, tests on 5G have already been rolled out in towns and cities including Bordeaux, Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, and Toulouse

Operators have said they are aiming to offer 75% 5G coverage across the country by 2022, and across 100% by 2030 - although it is likely to make phone contracts more expensive, with tariffs expected to rise by €10-€20 per month for 5G-connected devices.

Stay informed:
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France