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‘5G, as users go up, an increasingly dense network is required’. Interview with Luca D’Antonio (JMA Teko)

Luca D’Antonio, JMA Teko Strategy and Innovation Director: ‘A network shall be created based on the number of users, to offer a certain service. As users go up, an increasingly dense network is required’.

Health effects due to electromagnetic emissions and the thorny problem of the unfounded concerns, reported by some Municipalities, which are hindering the installation of 5G antennae. These are the themes we have discussed with Luca D’Antonio, Strategy and Innovation Director of JMA Teko, a company specialized in the production of telecommunications systems for operators and system integrators. Headquartered in Castel San Pietro, in province of Bologna (Italy),the company is part of the JMA Wireless Group, USA. JMA Teko attended 5G Italythe main event dedicated to 5G, promoted by the Italian National Inter-University Consortium for Telecommunications (CNIT) and held at the Italian National Research Council (CNR) premises, December 3rd – 5th, 2019. The topic of health consequences from electromagnetism was dealt with at a dedicated round table at 5G Italy.

Key4biz. What is your professional opinion on electromagnetic emissions?

Luca D’Antonio. This is a delicate topic because it involves several industrial aspects related to the development of a mobile telecommunications network, with huge investments, in addition to those already made by the operators to acquire 5G frequencies. Still, further investments will be necessary to build the 5G network. Every time we create a new 5G network, it is quite as if everything should start from scratch. Back in the 90s, we started from analog networks and TACS, then came the GSM (2G): the first digital cellular communication system in Europe, UMTS (3G) followed. We are presently in the LTE (4G) era and we are approaching the 5G generation, requiring operators to make new investments and provide better network coverage.

Key4biz. What does it imply?

Luca D’Antonio. We only have to think about the number of users in the 90s and compare them with present figures. A network shall be created based on the number of users, to offer a certain service. As users go up, an increasingly dense network is required. Hence, heavy investments are necessary in both frequencies and networks to be built. That is why industrial-related issues matter.

Key4biz. Is the general public aware that Italian regulations on electromagnetism are the strictest in Europe?

Luca D’Antonio. The advent of 5G and the need to develop new radio base station sites are quite alarming topics. Seen through the eyes of an expert, who has worked for more than 20 years in this field, such a concern is not justified, though. It is understandable if seen from the point of view of a citizen, but not when speaking as an expert, since the Italian National Institute of Health (ISS) has never reported any risk related to electromagnetic waves. In addition, consider that electromagnetic waves have been studied extensively and several regulations have been issued in this regard.

 Key4biz. Regulations exist.

Luca D’Antonio. Regulations do exist and are very strict. Electromagnetic field levels are a quite well measurable physical quantity. According to Italian law, the exposure level cannot exceed 6 V/m in places where human presence is expected and expectable for no less than 4 hours a day.

The maximum exposure limit has been set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), an international organisation that has studied electromagnetic emissions and has capped the limit at 60 V/m – ten times higher than the Italian one. Talking about power, the Italian limit is one hundred times lower.

This 6 V/m limit is the sum of fields deriving from all the sources, hence, in case signals from three radio base stations, i.e. Tim, Vodafone and Wind Tre, reach a certain area, it is the sum of these three signals that cannot exceed the 6 V/m exposure limit.

Key4biz. What happens if operators add 5G antennae and radio systems to these radio base stations?

Luca D’Antonio. The limit that cannot be exceeded is still 6 V/m.

Key4biz. What will happen in the future, with old 2G, 3G and 4G standards taken down to make room for 5G?

Luca D’Antonio. In some cases it might be necessary to deactivate one of the previous generations or reduce their power. In some others it won’t be possible, though, as 2G and 3G end users are still very many, as well as machine-to-machine devices, that are often 2G, and operators have an obligation to provide the service. Amending the regulations in force to increase the exposure limits to emissions in Italy might be a solution. An alternative exists, but it is difficult to achieve and is quite expensive for the operators: creating new radio base station sites. In so doing, less powerful sources can be used. Let’s make an example related to street lamps lighting. If the number of lighting points increases, the power used decreases, still keeping the same overall lighting effect. If the number of radio base station sites increases, the power used decreases, still keeping the same signal level.

Unfortunately, nowadays it is very difficult to set up new sites, as Municipalities and individuals oppose it, and it’s more and more expensive also in the few cases in which it is feasible. We are back again to this paradox: more sites and antennae are necessary in order to guarantee a certain level of service and comply with the limits of emissions. That is why such a common trend as operators’ co-siting will become more and more widespread, just to limit these issues.

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