Vodafone NZ, Spark and 2degrees are encouraging the Government to go on the front-foot to combat 5G scaremongering.
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The trio's call follows Optus speaking out across the Tasman this morning. The Aussie telco said the Federal government needed to speak up and squash "false and alarmist claims".
It also called on the industry to work together in a concerted effort to quash 5G rumour-mongering.
Here, Vodafone NZ spokeswoman Rich Llewellyn said, "With the advent of social media, we're seeing unprecedented levels of unreliable information or misinformation being shared around electromagnetic radiation, similar to other campaigns such as anti-vaccination and fluoride in water."
"Given the importance of next-generation technology to NZ's future economic prospects, it is clear that industry, central and local government and the business community needs to work better together to address the challenge of misinformation," Llewellyn said.
"Similar to public-funded education campaigns to encourage vaccinations, we urge our government to act swiftly to ensure New Zealand doesn't get left behind when it comes to next-generation mobile technology like 5G."
For Spark, spokesman Andrew Pirie said, "We would like to see official arms of government do more.
"The NZ Ministry of Health did publish a fact sheet in August, which is useful to have out there, but it's rather light touch versus the barrage of misinformation that is being circulated every day via social media."
Vodafone NZ will launch 5G, or fifth-generation mobile network technology, in December, with 100 sites going live around Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.
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Spark plans its first commercial 5G service from July next year. 2degrees has yet to put a timeline on its launch, but spokesman Mat Bolland says 5G fears are also hindering efforts to upgrade or add 4G cell sites.
"Despite decades of research into the safety of cell sites and the government's advisory, we're seeing local communities oppose new site builds on the basis that 5G is unproven, will kill trees, animals and bees and worse," Bolland says.
Industry group the Telecommunications Carriers Forum (TCF), to which all the major players belong, has also posted a fact sheet to its website. But chief executive Geoff Thorn says it will not be running a public education campaign.
Chorus: We're not dragging the chain
Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees are all onboard with the TCF taking a more front-foot approach, but one insider told the Herald that every member must support a new initiative and that the landline-focused Chorus was dragging the chain.
Asked about this statement, Thorn responded, "It would be fair to say there is some debate about the TCF role in relation to a range of media topics, including 5G emissions. This is driven by the high level of competition in the industry, which today includes infrastructure competition. This is great for consumers and we see the impact via declining prices and increased data offerings for a range of products. But it can also lead to debate about the publicity role for the TCF."
Chorus spokesman Steve Pettigrew vigorously rejected the claim that his company was not on board with efforts to educate the public about 5G.
"Foolish theories hurt the whole industry," he said.
Chorus had supported the fact sheet and would support any public education campaign.
That should reassure the mobile network operators, should the TCF get to the point where it decides on a campaign. Thorn said this afternoon, "There has been no decision to either run, or not run, a TCF campaign."
On the government side, a spokesman for Health Minister David Parker said he was not aware of any public education campaign in the works regarding 5G. He referred questions to the Ministry of Heath, which did not immediately respond.
Chief Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister Prof Juliet Gerrard said, "We have 5G featured on the ' hot topics ' page of our website, linking through to different pieces of independent information here and overseas."
She added, "Given the high public interest in this topic, we are working to expand the amount of independent information available, and put it in a publicly accessible form. So there will be a 5G page live by the end of the month - which will be regularly updated as required."
A number of experts have outlined the issues around 5G in lay terms.
They include Dr Michelle Dickinson recently reiterated that mobile phones, mobile networks and Wi-Fi are safe. All of these technologies use radiofrequency or RF radiation that is an example of non-ionising radiation - which does not have enough energy to damage our DNA and cause cancer (unlike sources of ionising radiation, such as X-rays, which can cause damage with pro-longed exposure).
And Dickinson emphasises that with the higher frequencies used by 5G, it's safer than 4G.
"As the frequency goes up, the depth of penetration into biological tissues goes down. This means that 5G is even less likely to penetrate the body than the current technology that we use," she says.