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Published on : 5 May, 2020

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The Evolution of 5G

The Eswatini Communications Commission notes the extent of information particularly on the internet and Social Media, pointing to the fifth generation (5G) technology for mobile telecommunications as being one of the causes, and also aiding the spread of COVID-19. As the Regulatory Authority responsible for electronic communications services in the country, the Commission is obligated to provide accurate information to the public on ICT developments.

In this regard, the Commission has found it proper to provide expert information on 5G technology and how it is neither the cause nor an enabler to the spread of COVID-19.


Wireless communications technologies, which are widely used for many applications globally and in Eswatini, have been developing for years and have undergone different stages of development, where and each stage has presented a better and improved service experience for network users. This development in technologies has been primarily driven by changing user demands and expectations, digitisation and increased online presence of most of societal, business and industrial activities. To meet some of these requirements and expectations, high-throughput, low latency and massive capacity networks are required. Over the last few years, sector players (standards development bodies, equipment vendors, member states organizations), have been working on the development of the latest generation of mobile communications technologies, 5G, also known as IMT-2020. This fifth generation of mobile communications technologies is meant to deliver multi-gigabit speeds, ultra-low-latency and sufficient capacity to consumers and network users.




Mobile Network Technologies have evolved over the years, roughly every other decade. 5G is the fifth generation and latest of mobile network technology, first widely deployed in 2019. Compared to previous generation of network technologies (1G, 2G, 3G and 4G), it is expected to increase performance but can also expand into new service areas such as mission-critical communications and connecting massive Internet of Things (IoT) structures. 5G will largely impact industry, making safer transportation, strengthening e-Health, precision agriculture, digitized logistics amongst many others.




At the root of all concerns about wireless cell phone networks and technologies including 5G, is the effects of electromagnetic field radiation (EMF) or radiofrequency radiation (RFR) on the health of human beings. RFR is anything emitted in the electromagnetic spectrum, from microwaves to x-rays to radio waves to light from your monitor or light from the sun. The electromagnetic radiation from mobile network base stations and handsets is called non-ionising radiation (NIR), meaning it does not have enough energy density to break chemical bonds and cause damage to cells. 


Science has, however, established that radio waves have a thermal (heating) effect on human tissue hence the need to set exposure limits. Furthermore, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) was established and its function is to investigate the hazards that may be associated with the different forms of Non-Ionizing Radiation (NIR), develop international guidelines on NIR exposure limits, and deal with all aspects of NIR protection. Following a seven-year study, the ICNIP has recently published revised guidelines on the NIR exposure limits which accommodate the newly developed technologies and they have stated that “5G technologies will not be able to cause harm when these new guidelines are adhered to”.


Within the country, the Commission has also studied the RFR from all the mobile networks operators, which have currently deployed up to 4G, in accordance with the ICNIRP guidelines and determined that the radiation from the different sites is well within the limits set in the guidelines. To date, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies. Provided that the overall exposure remains below international guidelines, no consequences for public health are anticipated.


5G, and its predecessor technologies, uses radio waves that are non-ionised and can therefore not cause any failure of the human immune system. Radiation from the sun is far greater than the radiation from a cell tower.


It is a common knowledge that due to the lower power of 5G transmitters, there will be more of them installed in order to ensure availability and access. The lower power means that the effective electromagnetic radiation from the sites will be reduced thus reducing the radiation effects of each individual base station.




The country currently does not have any 5G network deployments by mobile network operators. However, the Commission has received interest from operators to conduct 5G trials. The Commission has welcomed these interests and is already engaged in technical and regulatory discussions.


Accordingly, Eswatini Communications Commission would like to assure Emaswati that there is no scientific link between the deployment of 5G technology and Covid-19 or its spread. There is also no clinical evidence to support this theory. Covid-19 is actually spreading in many countries that do not have 5G mobile networks.


Furthermore, only standardized network equipment will be allowed for deployment in Eswatini. All network deployments in Eswatini are done in accordance with International Telecommunications Union (ITU) standards.  


The introduction of 5G is bringing more benefits for Africa and the developing world. Eswatini is poised to benefit through the deployment of wireless technology for communications which operates on radio frequencies. This is an opportunity for the country to experience better access to electronic communications services with high speeds as the world evolves to rely on connectivity for different industries.


The Commission would like to encourage all Emaswati to stay connected and utilise digital platforms whilst working and studying from home.  


For more information, do contact the Commission on