Could future wireless communications be harmful?

How will the future of telecommunications affect the health of its users?

A new research project by Massey University is focusing on the electromagnetic radiation from future generation of communication devices like mobile phones and laptops, to assess their effect on human health. 

The project ‘Analysing Harmful Electromagnetic Exposure due to Future Millimeter Wave Transmissions’ is funded by the Lottery Health Research Fund, and will be carried out over 2016-2017. The study sets out to investigate if there will be any adverse effects of electromagnetic radiation to human health caused by the next generation of telecommunication networks called 5G.

Principal Investigator Dr Faraz Hasan says, “if the future wireless signals are found to be harmless to the human health, this project would build consumer confidence in the future telecommunication services. However, if this project shows that the 5G network leads to, or potentially may lead to adverse health impacts, the industry would be required to modify the underlying wireless technology to ensure the human wellbeing”. 

The most important outcome is determining the safety level of future wireless services in New Zealand and all over the world,” Dr Hasan from the School of Engineering and Advanced Technology, says.  

Research group members Dr Mohammad Rashid and Dr Fakhrul Alam.

Previous research in this area has been carried out to address public concerns and to investigate the safety of wireless communication. They have found that it is safe for consumers to use the present state of the wireless devices. However, the upcoming 5G network proposes to increase the number of wireless transmitters in our environment.  This may bring us dangerously close to exceeding the pre-defined limits. 

“With some industry giants predicting 50 billion connected devices by 2020 and with the employment of much higher transmission frequencies proposed for the 5G rollout, it is essential to determine how the future of telecommunications will affect the health of its users,” Dr Hasan says.

Motivated by this quest, this project seeks to develop new techniques that allow the assessment of 5G wireless signals and their electromagnetic exposure to human beings. The findings will be compared against the existing thresholds that have been set aside by a number of regulatory bodies.

Dr Faraz Hasan and Dr Xiang Gui.

To carry out this research project Massey University will collaborate with India’s Birla Institute of Technology and Auckland University of Technology. 

This research is one of the externally funded projects currently being carried out by the Telecommunication and Network Engineering (TNE) research group under the Electronics Cluster at Massey University. The group focuses on issues that are pertinent to the next generation of communication systems and includes Dr Faraz Hasan, Dr Xiang Gui, Dr Fakhrul Alam and Dr Mohammad Rashid, and their postgraduate and undergraduate students. The Electronics Cluster Leader Professor Serge Demidenko believes that TNE is delivering on the cutting edge technology projects that relate well with the New Zealand society.

You can find out more about the activities of TNE by clicking here.