Brussels forced to halt 5G pilots because of radiation concerns

The Belgian government has called a halt to a 5G pilot in capital Brussels over fears that 5G will not meet the city’s strict radiation rules. These are some of the toughest in the world, along with a few other markets such as Switzerland – but the decision raises the broader concern that the density of 5G base stations and antennas may create power output challenges more generally.

Last year, three of Belgium’s operators came to an agreement with the government to relax the radiation rules in Brussels in order to support a 5G pilot, and Orange has already announced plans to deploy commercial 5G networks in the city soon.

But environment minister Céline Fremault has decided to halt the project because she says it is too difficult to measure the radiation exposure from the new service.

“I cannot welcome such technology if the radiation standards, which must protect the citizen, are not respected, 5G or not,” Fremault told The Brussels Times. “The people of Brussels are not guinea pigs whose health I can sell at a profit. We cannot leave anything to doubt.”

Last year, Fremault and Alexander De Croo, Belgium’s telecom minister, called for a technical study on whether 5G technologies could conform to Brussels’ current limits of six volts per meter (a limit that is 50 times stricter than international standards). The Belgian Institute of Postal and Telecommunications Services carried out that study, and concluded that the strict radiation rules mean “no new radio frequency can now be brought into service”. It recommended that the city adopt a higher limit of 14.5 Volts per meter, with the flexibility to go up to 41.5 V/m, in order to support 5G.

The government had previously agreed to adapt the regulations to support Orange Belgium’s 5G network deployment.