Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Questions (1251)

Mary Butler


1251. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of a national risk assessment of technologies and equipment used in the roll-out of 5G networks; the status of research carried out on 5G safety standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19274/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The roll-out of 5G in Ireland is a matter for private mobile network operators, operating on a commercial basis.

Mobile network operators function in a liberalised market in Ireland, regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). The regulation of these service providers, to the extent permitted by law, is a statutory function of ComReg in accordance with the Communications Regulation Act 2002. This role includes the monitoring of compliance by authorised operators with relevant terms and conditions, including with respect to non-ionising radiation levels. ComReg is statutorily independent in the exercise of its functions.

Irish policy on the public health effects of non-ionising radiation is informed by a substantial volume of internationally recognised scientific research and evidence. This includes the guidelines set down by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

These guidelines provide scientifically-based exposure limits that are applicable to both public and occupational exposure from electromagnetic fields (EMF), including 5G. The guidelines are based on evidence gathered from all peer-reviewed scientific literature and not on the conclusions of any single scientific paper, event, or other source.

In 2015, the Irish Government commissioned a report by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment of the Netherlands (RIVM). This was published in 2016 and is entitled “Electromagnetic Fields in the Irish Context”. It examined and synthesised existing peer-reviewed research into clear findings, with particular focus on the potential health effects of electric and magnetic fields arising from high voltage power lines, and electromagnetic fields from base stations for mobile communication. This report reaffirms the overall conclusion of an earlier 2007 report, “Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields”, that there is insufficient evidence to establish a causal relationship between exposure to low-frequency electromagnetic fields and adverse health effects.

This Department continues to monitor scientific developments in this area.

Separately, my Department, including the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), and ComReg had been working on a review of the full spectrum of cybersecurity risks affecting 5G systems since late 2018. This review was being undertaken with a view to the interconnected and transnational nature of the infrastructures underpinning 5G networks, and the rapidly evolving nature of the technology.

On the 26 of March 2019 the EU Commission published C(2019) Recommendation 2335 which sets out concrete actions to assess cybersecurity risk to 5G networks. The NCSC is fully engaged in the process, working in close collaboration with EU Member States & institutions, ComReg and the telecommunications industry in order to ensure the review conducted is comprehensive and evidence-based.

The review of the risks affecting 5G networks will inform and contribute towards the upcoming National Cyber Security Strategy and the Connectivity Strategy.