31 August 2020 - NW1938
Wilson, Ms ER to ask the Minister of Health
Whether any engagements were held between his department and other departments before 5G towers were introduced and approved in the Republic; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?
No. The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) responsible for government telecommunications in the country has not yet published a 5G deployment policy at this stage.
According to the policy direction on High Demand Spectrum that was gazetted by the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies in July 2019, the roadmap for 5G deployment in South Africa will be developed after a study has been conducted by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA),on the spectrum requirements of 5G.
It must be acknowledged that the candidate 5G technologies are currently being evaluated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Detailed specifications of 5G technologies, officially known as the International Mobile Telecommunications-2020 (IMT-2020 Standards) are envisaged to be finalised within a year.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are no adverse health effects associated with 5G networks and the exposure to wireless technologies. The International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection 2020 Guidelines also declared 5G as safe.
We must also point out that some operators in South Africa already have licences for spectrum that can be used for 5G (e.g. RAIN). All existing 5G trials in South Africa have used existing spectrum bands allocated and used for 4G, under similar power restrictions.For the full deployment of 5G, ICASAwill have to allocate more radio frequency spectrum for use by 5G networks. This process is being given high priority by government, and was expedited when network operators were issued with temporary spectrum “in an effort to deal with COVID-19 telecommunications challenges”. In the meantime, most 5G networks use existing spectrum allocations.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies published “Proposed Policy and Policy Direction on Rapid Deployment of Electronic Communications Networks and Facilities” dated 22 July 2020,available online athttps://www.gov.za/documents/electronic-communications-act-proposed-policy-and-policy-direction-rapid-deployment. The purpose of the Draft Policy is to provide clarity on the deployment of electronic communications networks and facilities.
The Draft Policy states that an Electronic Communications Network Service (ECNS) licensee has the right to select, access and use public and private land to deploy communications networks and facilities - subject to laws that regulate the manner in which a licensee should exercise its powers.The Draft Policy acknowledges the emergence of 5G networks and the demand that these new technologies will have on electronic communications networks. DCDT has indicated that many objections were received on this Draft Policy due to public concerns raised regarding possible effects on property value, infringement on property owners’ rights and health risks associated with 5G networks.