Operators have demanded that anti-5G campaigners stop attacking staff and infrastructure, reiterating the scientific fact that next-generation networks cause no harm to human health.
Criminal activity is being fuelled by a baseless conspiracy theory that next-generation-networks can cause a range of health problems despite the fact that the entire body of research available refutes these claims, while World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations are that 5G is safe.
Recent guidance from the International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) took into account more than two decades of research and concluded there was absolutely no risk to public health. 5G networks are no more dangerous than 4G or even sunlight.
BT CEO Philip Jansen confirmed that, as of last Sunday, that 39 BT engineers had been physically or verbally assaulted, while 11 mobile masts had been destroyed or damaged. Most of the affected sites did not even have 5G equipment – epitomising the idiocy of conspiracy theorists.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Jansen said the campaigners were harming emergency service efforts, preventing the public from checking on vulnerable family members, and thwarting attempts to provide the country with the communications infrastructure required during this crisis.
“When I first began to assess the potential impact of Covid-19 on our customers, our colleagues and our business, this was a situation that I never imagined: that our engineers and our networks would be under attack from people who truly believe, somehow, that 5G and Covid-19 are linked,” Jansen said.
“Everything about this is senseless. There's no thought for the validity of the theories – many openly contradict themselves; all ignore the very basic principles of science.
“These people are performing a vital service for the country; we should be thanking them, not harming them. This is my team and I will not tolerate them being targeted in this disgraceful way by a few mindless idiots.”
Industry body Mobile UK has said there were 20 more attacks over the Easter weekend, while Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery conformed that one of the masts targeted was providing mobile coverage for the Nightingale hospital in Birmingham.
“It’s heart-rending enough that families cannot be there at the bedside of loved ones who are critically ill,” he said. “It’s even more upsetting that even the small solace of a phone or video call may now be denied them because of the selfish actions of a few deluded conspiracy theorists.
“Burning down masts means damaging important national infrastructure. In practice, this means families not being able to say a final goodbye to their loved ones; hard-working doctors, nurses, and police officers not being able to phone their kids, partners or parents for a comforting chat.
“Arsonists, please think about what you are doing and stop. Imagine if it were your mum or dad, your gran or grandad in hospital. Imagine not being able to see or hear them one last time. All because you’ve swallowed a dangerous lie.”
The conspiracy theories have been rubbished by England’s National Medical Director Stephen Powis said: “The 5G story is complete and utter rubbish, it’s nonsense, it’s the worst kind of fake news.”
Nonetheless, several minor celebrities have posted about the claims on social media with This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes adding fuel to the flames earlier this week. After consumer editor Alice Beer rubbished the claims of conspiracy theorists, Homes responded:
“I totally agree with everything you are saying but what I don't accept is mainstream media immediately slapping that down as not true when they don't know it's not true.
"No-one should attack or damage or do anything like that, but it's very easy to say it is not true because it suits the state narrative. That's all I would say, as someone with an inquiring mind."
Holmes has since sought to provide clarity to his words but Ofcom is now investigating the matter. The regulator has already imposed sanctions on Sussex-based community radio station Uckfield FM broadcast unfounded views without challenging them on-air. Ofcom has ordered the station to broadcast a summary of this breach on a data and form to be decided by the watchdog.
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.