The EU may have agreed to roll out 5G in at least one city per participating state by 2020 but strict radiation laws in Brussels could derail that goal, based on a recent report from The Brussels Times. The rollout of the next-gen network was brought to a halt within the past week by environment minister Céline Fremault, citing concerns about whether or not radiation output has even been thoroughly tested.
The official put a stop to the pilot and reasoned that citizens of the city "are not guinea pigs."
The problem stems from matters related to health, with telecoms operating in the city required to adhere to guidelines set at around 6 volts per meter. That regulation has caused issues in the past, particularly with the rollout of 4G LTE. The companies have requested a change that would push the limit to 14.5 volts per meter or as high as 41.5 volts per meter if should the need arise as recently as October.
For reference, the current 6-volt standard is approximately 50-times more stringent than standards elsewhere.
Ongoing problems for competition
Telecoms operators within the EU have sought to address concerns over the radiation for some time but radiation is not the only issue standing in the way. In mid-2018, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, Huawei, KPN, and Orange released an open letter, published by GSM Association, that argued over regulation of mmWave bands that are crucial for 5G.
Specifically, the companies put forward an argument claiming that legislation in the works intended to regulate the vital 26GHz band of spectrum would diminish their ability to compete with the US and other countries.
At the time, the EU's official plan for rolling out 5G widely fell into the 2025 range, putting Europe behind by nearly half-a-decade compared to the US. So the new pilot program scheduled by the EU could easily cause the region to fall behind and that would again be the result of regulations over key aspects of its deployment.
5G has the potential to create a dynamic shift in how technology can be and is used globally, due primarily to its drastically reduced latency but also because of its data rates — measured in gigabits rather than megabits. So any lag in deploying the networks is likely to result in reduced innovation and deployment elsewhere on the technology spectrum.
No end to the delays in sight
Progress on the next-generation networking front has continued unabated in the US, China, and elsewhere. Verizon and AT&T have each rolled out their own 5G implementations in limited regions of select cities and plan to serve dozens more by the end of the year. Sprint and T-Mobile are on similar trajectories but have mostly held back while the pair await a decision from regulators regarding their proposed merger deal. China has already begun using existing 5G network rollouts to perform remote surgeries among other use cases.
The 5G predicament continuing to develop at the heart of the EU, as compared to other developed nations, seems unlikely to sway the opinion of the environment minister. Ms. Fremault asserts that the health of Brussels residents is not a commodity to be sold at a profit and that she has no plans to make an exception while doubts about safety remain.