Belgian telco Proximus will halt 5G network deployment in the city of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve to hold a Town Hall to address all health concerns of citizens.
Although the rumours connecting 5G to COVID-19 or the growth of an extra ear might seem preposterous to those in the industry, some members of the general public are harbouring health concerns, and an even smaller proportion are turning to criminal activities to damage infrastructure.
There is no circumstance where vandalism and arson on telecoms equipment is acceptable, neither is physical and verbal abuse to staff, but the industry has left a void in education. This may go some way to explaining why some people believe the absurd and baseless rumours which are being spread by conspiracy theorists and chatroom trolls; the telco industry has never fully explained radio technology, just assumed everyone would be OK with a network upgrade.
This situation is further compounded when it is not immediately obvious why the upgrades are being performed. As it stands, 4G works but the general public has not seen the same data as industry insiders demonstrating the rapid growth in data usage or the limitations of today’s networks. Without these explanations, the soil has been fertilised to allow these ridiculous claims to bed in and grow.
In Belgium, it appears Proximus is addressing the concerns prior to the 5G engine revving through the gears.
“The City of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve has just obtained from Proximus the answer to the question it has been asking since March 31: the deployment of 5G via the antennas present on its territory has been stopped,” a statement on the City’s website said. “The operator has also promised to participate in a public information session, during which he will explain his project to citizens.”
As it stands, the public consultation for the upcoming auction will not be open for citizens to respond to, which has irked city officials somewhat as it is believed the debate should be societal and not just a technical one. That said, hopefully the Town Hall and supplementary documentation will be sufficient to provide enough information to dispel the ludicrous myths, disarm the pseudoscience with facts and remove any faith which has wrongly been placed in the conspiracy theorists.
The spectrum auction itself has been postponed during the COVID-19 outbreak, though we suspect much of the work to deploy a 5G network would also have been delayed. Five applications are in the running for spectrum (Proximus, Telnet, Orange Belgium, Cegeka and Entropia Investments) which will be split into five 40 MHz blocks between the 3.6-3.8 GHz band. The telcos will have to pay €800,000 upfront for a 15-year licence, as well as €420,000 per annum.
The pause on 5G rollout, which was likely slowing due to COVID-19 in any case, should give an opportunity to address the concerns of the general public to ensure the spate of vandalism, which has crept from the UK to the Netherlands, does not spread any further.
Over the last few weeks, there have been a number of arson attacks directed towards 5G infrastructure in both the UK and the Netherlands thanks to a small number of criminals believing the fantasies of false prophets. Celebrities have been effectively endorsing messages from the likes of former-BBC Presenter and current-nutjob David Icke, with a small number of gullible fools drinking the Kool-Aid.
Not only are these actions illegal and monstrously misinformed, the consequences extend to inhibiting emergency services from doing vital work in response to the coronavirus.
However, the Town Hall approach from Proximus here might create a blueprint to follow. The General Public needs to be educated and brought on the 5G journey with everyone else. It cannot just be assumed citizens will just blindly follow the telcos down the virtual trail to the digital economy, hands have to be held and lessons taught.
The only way to disarm the dangerous and idiotic conspiracy theorists is to provide the general public with the correct information to ensure that sensible individuals can make correct decisions. The tinfoil hat army will always be lurking in the delusional corners, but as long as the vast majority realise that the likes of Eamonn Holmes is talking as much sense as a drunken Charlie Sheen, the world will be a harmonious place.