5G technology concerns ‘need to be addressed in roll-out’

Better public understanding of 5G is needed if the new technology is to deliver on its promise of a “generational leap” in connectivity and innovation, a Federal Parliamentary report says.

The report into the deployment, adoption and application of 5G  mobile technology – begun by the House of Representatives’ Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts last September – makes 14 recommendations, including that the federal government develop community information campaigns to address concerns about the new technology.

These include the increased number of small cells, or radio transmitters, required for 5G (many of which will be installed on light poles, bus shelters and building exteriors), potential health effects, and fears over the privacy of personal data.

The Next Gen Future report also urges the government to review the low impact facilities framework to “ensure that its powers to encourage co-location of facilities and equipment are fit-for-purpose in a 5G environment”.

It further recommends the Department of Communications and the Arts “assess the suitability of current powers and immunities arrangements, especially in relation to the timeframes for raising objections, noting the likelihood of an increased number of installations for the deployment of 5G”.

ALGA’s submission to the inquiry noted that “the proliferation of 5G and other telecommunications infrastructure has been an issue of concern to a number of councils.

“While ALGA supports the rollout of modern telecommunications infrastructure to improve the lifestyles, environment and economy of cities and towns, it needs to be balanced with proper process to ensure structural integrity, safety, urban design, and visual amenity is retained and visual interference (eg, along road corridors) is minimised.

“The rollout of 5G should not override important planning, heritage, consultation and safety assessment provisions,” it said.

Under schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (carrier powers and immunities), telcos must advise councils of their plans to install “low-impact facilities” such as small cells, and to respond to submissions during comment periods.

However, they do not need local council approval for their work.