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We’ve completed extensive testing of our 5G network infrastructure in real-world settings using commercially available 5G devices, and our data confirms two things. Firstly, our 5G technology produces electromagnetic energy (EME) levels at around 1000 times below the safety limits in many cases. Secondly, all our testing has found 5G EME levels to be similar to 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi.

It is great for us to have real EME readings from 5G in a live network, in a variety of typical use cases and locations like cafes, residential streets, sports fields, schools and apartments. These are the places that 5G is going to be used in the real world, so it is important for us to be able to show people the real data on 5G and EME.

We conducted our testing on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane in collaboration with Ericsson, Narda and Total Radiation Solutions, to give a clear and definitive answer to many of the questions people are asking. As far as we are aware, to date Telstra is the only operator to undertake this level of real-world testing. We believe that we have a responsibility to share this data freely and publicly and to explain what it means in the simplest terms.

We tested both the HTC 5G Hub mobile broadband hotspot and the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G smartphone for this survey, and configured both devices to produce a high level of data traffic over 5G using download speed tests, 4K video streams, and the iPerf network transmission test tool.

Indoors – inside apartments and cafes

In the testing we completed inside apartments and cafes near our 5G Innovation Centre at Southport on the Gold Coast, we measured 5G EME levels consistently under 0.02 per cent of the ARPANSA standard limit – that is, more than 5000 times below the safety limit put in place by the Australian government body responsible for EME.

We undertook our testing in apartments where young families and our own network engineer partners live. It is important to us that we are able to demonstrate the levels of EME produced by our 5G technology and 5G devices add no risk when compared to existing technologies.

In fact, in our apartment testing, we had a room full of network engineers maxing out their devices simultaneously, while still delivering those EME results of more than 1000 times below safety limits. It is also important to note that existing safety standards for EME cover 5G, including children, are conservative and will also include the higher mmWave frequencies to be used in the future.

Outdoors – in the street, at school, at the sports ground

Outside in the street – as well as at a school and at a sports ground in the suburb of Musgrave in Queensland – our testing confirmed that 5G produces EME levels well below the safety limits. Our real-world testing using commercial devices and our live 5G network showed EME levels at around 1000 times below the safety limit in many cases.

With this data available to us after real-world testing, we are able to answer questions from customers and alike, and to confirm that all our 5G base stations comply with stringent EME safety standards. We also continue to publish the compliance certificates and EME reports for each base station on the Radiofrequency National Site Archive.

Positive feedback from the scientific community

We presented this data to the World Health Organisation in Geneva, to the International Electrotechnical Commission, and to the 2019 BioEM Conference at Montpellier, France in late June. The feedback from scientists, engineers and technical experts was positive – these are currently the definitive real-world tests for the EME levels produced by 5G in everyday use conditions, along with our comparison of 5G to the EME produced by existing 4G, 3G and Wi-Fi.

People have asked what 5G will be like when many more devices are connected. To answer this question, we tested mmWave on our trial network operating at maximum capacity and also modelled our tests results on the current network at maximum capacity. Next year we will undertake further testing on mmWave frequencies with more spectrum.

Essentially, the many efficiency improvements of 5G over 4G and 3G mean that when more devices are connected to a network, EME levels remain low on 5G – this is one of the main advantages of the new technology.

Testing shows 5G EME well below safety limits

We will undertake further testing on our future 5G network configuration and proposed mmWave spectrum, including on the ‘beam steering’ capability of 5G, which can improve coverage and data transfer speeds using existing antenna hardware and even more efficient transmission methods.

In all our testing, 5G EME levels were found to be well below the EME safety limit – in many cases, around 1000 times below the safety limits. Even when our indoor testing results are quadrupled to represent the maximum 5G transmitter power possible, EME levels would still only reach 0.1 per cent of the public exposure limit of the safety standard.

These survey results affirm our view that 5G adds no risk compared to existing technologies, and reinforces the official advice from the expert bodies like the Australian government agency ARPANSA, the World Health Organisation and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.

For our full report on our 5G EME testing, you can read more here.