A national survey of 500 New Zealanders has found many are prone to misinformation and urban myths about 5G - the new mobile technology being adopted by Vodafone, Spark and, down the track, 2degrees.

PM's chief science advisor weighs in on 5G controversy

Online market researcher Opinion Compare found awareness and comprehension of the 5G rollout is high but that there are also health and environmental concerns.

"5G will require some 40,000 satellites to be put in geosynchronous orbit, how many holes will be punched in an already beleaguered atmosphere," one respondent said.


5G or fifth-generation networks don't require any satellites.

Others expressed fears about the technology damaging people, plants or insects.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor, Professor Juliet Gerrard, citing multiple studies, sought to calm fears, noting research did not show any threat to bees, weather forecasting equipment or people from 5G.

Nationwide, there's high familiarity about 5G, with 81 per cent of the New Zealand population familiar with the term and 41 per cent aware of Vodafone's involvement, 33 per cent with Spark.

When asked to articulate their understanding of 5G, there was a mix of seeing it as the evolution from 4G, delivering high speed/better connectivity but also health concerns and what they saw as a lack of research into the potential impact of the rollout.

While 79 per cent had heard that 5G will deliver faster internet transition speeds, 46 per cent believed 5G could be harmful to humans and 33 per cent thought that 5G could be harmful to insects, birds and plants.

These concerns are amplified when a higher proportion of the New Zealand population had sought out information about their safety and health concerns of 5G (19 per cent) versus the benefits (18 per cent).

A new plain-English Q&A about the new mobile technology, published online by Gerrard's office, addresses popular fears, and explains why 5G is safe.


A comprehensive "What is 5G?" explainer notes difference between harmful ionising radiation, such as that produced by X-Rays, which has enough energy to harm cells with prolonged exposure, and non-ionising radiation (such as the radio frequencies used for 5G transmission, 5G phones and wi-fi) that do not have enough energy to damage cells.

Those concerned about 5G often cite that radiofrequency radiation was classified as a "possible human carcinogen" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (an arm of the United Nations' World Health Organisation ) in 2011.

The Chief Science Advisor's new 5G website puts this into context, noting the "possible" category - unlike the IARC's "probable" list - includes phenomena where a link to cancer cannot be completely ruled out and "catches many commonly encountered things, such as pickles and dry cleaning, so represents a low-risk rating. To put this in perspective, even the classification above this, 'probable human carcinogens', includes widely encountered activities including drinking very hot drinks and working night shifts."