Navigating radio frequency compliance issues in the 5G landscape

By Rajeev Gandhi, Head of Technology, Telco Network Engineering

Cellular networks have progressed considerably compared to earlier telecom connections through wired networks.

By Rajeev Gandhi, Head of Technology, Telco Network Engineering


Cellular networks have progressed considerably compared to earlier telecom connections through wired networks. With the introduction of wireless communication technology, several recent changes have been incorporated into telecommunication channels. After the introduction of 3G and 4G LTE, cellular communication skyrocketed with more functional bandwidth, lower latency, and many more such features. However, there are some disadvantages that we can mitigate through the newest telecommunication technology—5G communication.

With the first phase of the 5G network already being ready for rolling out for mass usage, several regulatory authorities and government bodies have put forth their concerns. One such concern is compliance problems with radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic fields (EMF) rules and regulations.


Why meet RF compliances?

First, RF waves are radiated from cellular devices due to wireless communication technology. These waves carry information from one point of the network to another. You cannot operate the device if it does not generate RF waves for data transmission.

However, RF waves can have an adverse impact on the earth's electromagnetic field and the health of living organisms, both animals and plants. That's why several national and international regulatory authorities have established compliance guidelines to control RF waves in the atmosphere and mitigate the damage over time.

To help you understand this further, here are with the rules and regulations concerning RF and EMF.

A. The International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has released updated guidelines for 5G wireless communication technology rollout, ensuring the frequency bandwidth used is within 6 GHz. Any communication frequency higher than that can cause adverse effects on the environment and health.

B. If the compliance standards and regulations are not followed, telecom providers will face legal lawsuits due to violations, which will delay the rollout of 5G wireless communication networks.

C. Failure to comply with the RF wave restrictions can also lead to an imbalance in the electromagnetic field surrounding the earth. This field is responsible for protecting the ionized solar radiations from entering the atmosphere and causing damage to everything on the earth's surface.

D. Finally, if the rules and regulations of RF compliance are followed, telecom providers will have opportunities to orchestrate and implement projects using a budget that can lower overall rollout costs.


The challenges to 5G rollout

Although 5G can revolutionize the telecommunication industry, companies need to focus more on mitigating the challenges than planning for the rollout. So, in this section below, we have described some of the significant challenges that require immediate assistance for a smooth rollout of 5G while keeping RF levels in check.

The relationship between frequency and power
The first thing that every telecom provider must understand is the relationship between network frequency and power. If you increase the channel frequency, the signal power will get reduced to one-fourth, leading to call drops, improper communication, excessive load, and more.

Since 5G operates in three bands with a frequency range of 0.6 GHz to 71 GHz, the datasets can't be transmitted for a long range. For instance, if a particular telecom provider uses the 50 GHz communication channel, it will need network devices like antennas and mobile phones with a higher power. This will increase the project budget because a powerful antenna that can generate enough signal power to transmit at 50 GHz can be expensive.

Increased number of 5G antennas
Another area for improvement with the 5G rollout is the involvement of multiple small-scale antennas. As described previously, 5G RF signals have higher frequencies for reduced latency and faster communication. But more than the signal power is needed based on the current distributed network architecture. So, the signals will dampen and decay even before reaching the receiving antenna.

The distance between the transmitting and receiving antenna needs to be lowered to ensure such problems do not occur or the communication is not lost. This can be achieved by incorporating more antennas in between. This will not only make the network architecture more complex, but it will also increase the overall project budget.

Health challenges from 5G devices
Lastly, telecom providers can also face problems dealing with 5G devices and the released RF signals. These signals might not be as powerful as UV rays or X-rays due to lack of ionization. But they are powerful enough to affect health if exposure occurs for prolonged periods. This is one of the reasons why the 5G rollout has been postponed in some countries.

Compliance with Environmental Regulations
Compliance with environmental regulations, especially regarding site selection, aesthetics, and ecosystem impact, is challenging for 5G infrastructure deployment.


The future of 5G rollout

Addressing these challenges requires ongoing research, technological innovations, collaboration between industry stakeholders, and effective regulatory frameworks. We will see some of these mitigated as the technology matures and the industry gains more experience deploying and optimizing 5G networks. Thankfully, with expert help, you stay ahead of them.

Before you begin the rollout process of the 5G network, learn more about UST's RF compliance capabilities at