People in semi-urban and rural areas are trying to stop 5G trials and uproot mobile towers in the belief that the testing of 5G technology spreads coronavirus, prompting harried telecom operators to seek international backing.
In the last few days, groups have gathered at various sites in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Bihar and Punjab to demand that towers should be closed. Messages posted by lawyers and social activists claiming that 5G trials will spread the virus have gone viral.
Uttar Pradesh police have issued warnings in the rural districts of Gorakhpur, Solapur, Fatehpur, and Siddha Nagar that anyone trying to damage or uproot towers or spread wrong information will be dealt with severely.
Telecom operators and tower companies, through the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI), say that they are facing coercive action. In response, they have sought the support of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.
The unrest comes close on the heels of the government recently allowing operators to start 5G trial runs across various locations, including semi-urban and rural areas.
Some telcos say the campaign could be the work of ‘vested interests’ opposed to the trial runs. “The sudden action linking the spread of Covid-19 with 5G looks worrisome. Is this a move to delay 5G trials and also the roll out of 5G by some interest groups?” asked a telecom executive.
COAI has raised the matter with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). Support has come from the WHO which has debunked the claims, stating emphatically that viruses cannot travel on radio waves or on mobile networks and pointing out that countries without 5G services are also dealing with the virus.
The ITU demolished the theories by stating that they have no scientific basis. The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection has endorsed this view, adding that its Electromagnetic Field guidelines have taken into consideration all aspects of possible adverse health effects due to the exposure of radiation in 5G technologies.
The DoT has also chipped in, describing the link between 5G and coronavirus as ‘false’. It has clarified that mobile towers emit non-ionising radio frequencies and are unable to cause any kind of damage to living cells. It also has stringent norms for exposure limits which must be followed by telcos.
The trial runs are still some way off. Although the announcement allowing 5G trial runs came on May 5, it will take the telcos at least six to eight weeks to procure the necessary equipment. Business Standard News