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Radiation alert as 5G phone networks roll out

Potential radiation levels have prompted concerns about the building and use of phone masts. As Mike Reid reports, landowners should be prepared.

Landowners with telecommunication apparatus on their land need to fully understand the radiation exclusion zones in order to protect themselves and other members of the public from potentially harmful radiation effects from any telecoms equipment installed by mobile operators.

With the rollout of 5G – fifth-generation wireless technology – these exclusion zones are becoming larger, potentially causing more restrictions forlandowners.

The public exclusion zones from a 4G transmitterhave a radius of about 19 to 20 metres from the antenna. However, under International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection(ICNRP) guidelines, a 5G antenna might need an exclusion zone of 50 metres or more from the front of the antenna together with a small area to the rear.

A 5G antenna that is 20 metres above ground level will typically have an exclusion zone that falls from the top of the equipment to about 4 metres above the ground. On greenfield sites this exclusion zone could create problems for those working at heights in the vicinity of any mast or operating agricultural machinery which exceeds 4 metres high, such as combine harvesters. Should the equipment be on hilly terrain or wherethere are buildings nearby, the impact could be significant.

For rooftop telecommunication sites, the situation is far more problematic as the exclusion zones could cover adjacent buildings and stretch a significant way across the site itself.

Not all telecommunication operators are informing landowners about these exclusion zones, which is very concerning as it prevents the landowner from implementing appropriate safety guidelines. Exclusion zones can impact multiple operations including roof maintenance works andsurveys.

Landowners should ensure leases have adequate provisions to ensure the operator declares all health and safety information including exclusion zones and has contractual commitments for compensation to be paid for any additional costs or losses incurred as a result of complying with these exclusion zones as well as appropriate indemnities from third party claims.

It may be appropriate for clauses to be included within the telecoms agreement for the landowner to have the right to have the equipment switched off during their maintenance inspections and work in any areas affected by the exclusion zones.  Should any additional training be required for the landowner’s staff or contractors, this should be at the operator’s expense.

It is important to have a properly negotiated agreement for any telecoms lease and the initial terms proposed by the operator are unlikely to be the best that can be agreed for such a long-term agreement.