Turns out 5G is safe – yay

Updated guidelines from experts on this sort of thing show that, even at millimetre wave, 5G in its current form poses no additional risk to health.

The International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has updated its guidelines for the protection of humans exposed to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. These aren’t so much specific to 5G technology, but to the fact that, as a result of 5G, we’re going to be zapping higher frequencies radio EMF around the place than we had previously.

An important part of the name of the German organisation, which seems to be lost on some of the more unhinged 5G conspiracy theorists, is the ‘non-ionizing’ part. Radio is at the opposite end of the electromagnetic spectrum (see below, credit: NASA’s Imagine the Universe) to ionizing radiation such as gamma rays. That means it’s not mutagenic and any threat it poses concerns local bodily temperature rises, something that increases as you get closer to microwaves.

“We know parts of the community are concerned about the safety of 5G and we hope the updated guidelines will help put people at ease,” said ICNIRP Chairman, Dr Eric van Rongen. “The guidelines have been developed after a thorough review of all relevant scientific literature, scientific workshops and an extensive public consultation process. They provide protection against all scientifically substantiated adverse health effects due to EMF exposure in the 100 kHz to 300 GHz range.”

The main changes to the organization’s first lot of recommendations on radio for mobile in 1998 concern frequencies above 6 GHz. They include: the addition of a restriction for exposure to the whole body; the addition  of a restriction for brief (less  than  6 minute) exposures to small regions of the body; and the reduction of the maximum exposure permitted over a small region of the body. You can see then summarised in the table below, which was taken from a video you can view here.

“When we revised the guidelines, we looked at the adequacy of the ones we published in 1998. We found that the previous ones were conservative in most cases, and they’d still  provide  adequate  protection  for  current  technologies,”  said Van Rongen. “However, the new guidelines provide better and more detailed exposure guidance in particular for the higher frequency range, above 6 GHz, which is of importance to 5G and future technologies using these higher frequencies. The most important thing for people to remember is that 5G technologies will not be able to cause harm when these new guidelines are adhered to.”

Of course this won’t stop some people hearing the word ‘radiation’ and thinking nuclear fallout or being turned into the Incredible Hulk, but for the rest of us this seems to put the matter to rest. Conflating correlation with causation is a common mistake among paranoid types, which is why some nutters are even trying to draw a line between the coronavirus pandemic and 5G. Ignore them.

Verizon’s new mobile tariff for kids falls short of European equivalents

Dubbed “the first smartphone plan designed for kids,” Verizon’s new package will also come with tools for parents to track and control children’s online life, but Europe has been there for a while.

While there may still be debate over the pros and cons of early mobile phone ownership by children in certain quarters of the world, Verizon is looking beyond this and offering a new tariff package called “Just Kids” that the company says will make it “easier for families to call a technology truce”.

The package gives the child 5GB of 4G LTE data and unlimited talk time and SMS with 20 parent-approved contacts. It also includes the parental control suite called “Verizon Smart Family Premium” which would cost $9.99 of sold separately. The tools let parents set limits on children’s screen time, filter content, as well as track the whereabouts of the children. “Just Kids” also comes by default with “Safety Mode” switched on, that is when the child goes beyond the 5GB data limit, the speed will be capped at 128 Kbps without additional data charge.

“At Verizon, we take pride in being a true partner to parents by providing them with products and services designed to meet their needs in an ever-evolving and often confusing technology landscape,” said Angie Klein, vice president of marketing at Verizon. “With Just Kids, we’re leading the way on growing up with tech, providing parents with plan options and features that give them the peace of mind they need for safe and responsible phone usage.”

Prices of “Just Kids” vary depending on how many and what types of Verizon lines the family have. At the top end, with only two Verizon lines on the family account, the “Just Kids” plan would cost an additional $55 per month. On the other end, if the family account has four lines the “Just Kids” addition will cost $35 per month. To be eligible for “Just Kids”, at least one of the lines on the family account needs to be on an “Unlimited” plan. This would also mean a single parent without a family plan on Verizon will not be able to buy a “Just Kids” package for the child.

“Just Kids” is the first package designed for children offered by a major US operator, but to compare special tariffs for children in other markets, “Just Kids” is not necessarily the most generous, and by no means the most affordable offer. For example, in France, Bouygue, Orange, and SFR all have offers for children. A relatively comparable offer, Orange’s “2h 5Go” package comes at 6.99€ per month that gives the child 5GB data that can be used in France and Europe, unlimited talk time with three numbers and two hours’ talk time with other numbers in France and Europe, as well as unlimited SMS and MMS. Parents can choose to “block” the package, meaning the child will not be able to call or text premium numbers, outside of Europe, and not go beyond the data and call time limits.

The Finnish offers are probably the most generous. Out of the two leading operators, Telia Finland’s offers are cheaper, but Elisa’s come with higher data speed. Telia’s “Rajaton (“unlimited”) 2 M” priced at 19.90€ (16.90€ in the first 12 months) will give the child unlimited 4G data inside Finland and the other Nordic and Baltic countries, with the speed capped at 2Mbps. 250 minutes’ talk time and 250 text messages are also included, as well as 8GB data while roaming to other EU countries outside the Nordic and Baltic regions.

Verizon has highlighted the importance of protecting children’s online security while stressing the value of the parental control tools (“Verizon Smart Family Premium”). However, the native tools and applications from Apple and Google that come with the new versions of iOS and Android have similar functions already. And there is no additional cost for the apps.

When it comes to what is the appropriate age for children to have the first phone, Verizon is not willing to be drawn into such a discussion. “The decision of when to get a child their first phone is up to parents and varies family to family. Our role is to make sure we’ve got products and services to meet their needs when parents feel they are ready,” the company told PC World.