Unsubstantiated theories circulating on social media connect the second wave of the pandemic with the government giving the green light for Indian operator’s 5G trials

Last week, the Indian government gave the go-ahead for the country’s operators to begin testing 5G equipment – although notably excluding Chinese vendors ZTE and Huawei. 

Since then, rumours have been circulating on various social media channels that the trials are in fact to blame for the severe second wave of pandemic that India is currently battling, currently recording thousands of deaths each day.

Sadly, these rumours appear to be gaining traction, with numerous operators and tower companies have approaching the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) saying that they are being pressured to close their towers in various states, including Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Bihar and Punjab.

In fact, these conspiracy theories are so widespread that the government are even releasing statements are being issued to dispel these rumours.

“The general public is hereby informed that there is no link between 5G technology and spread of coronavirus and they are urged not to be misguided by the false information and rumours spread in this matter. The claims linking the 5G technology with the pandemic are false and have no scientific basis.” read a statement from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) earlier this week.

At the same time, the DoT noted that 5G radiation itself will not present a health threat.

Of course, beneath all these bizarre rumours lies one simple flaw: India simply does not have 5G yet. The 5G trials recently approved are not yet underway and spectrum for commercial launch will not be auctioned and allocated until an unspecified date later this year at the earliest. 

“The testing of the 5G network has not yet started anywhere in India. Hence, the claim that 5G trials or networks are causing coronavirus in India is baseless and false," said the DoT.

Conspiracy theories surrounding 5G are nothing new and are certainly not confined to developing countries like India. Around a year ago, similar conspiracy theories were circulating in various European markets, with arsonists burning what they believed to be 5G towers (in fact, these were often 4G towers). 

Communication and education surrounding the deployment of new technology will be key to allaying unscientific fears, and the DoT has announced a nationwide awareness programme aiming to distribute information related to the health effects of electromagnetic frequencies. 


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