By Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Monday 21 September 20

Two memos, issued in October 2019 and May 2020, saw a group of employees argue against 5G deployment based on health fears, as well as saying that it would not be profitable for the operator


Health concerns over 5G deployments appear to be present even within the ranks of the world’s largest telcos, despite being routinely debunked by scientists, suggests a recent media report.

Two memos from a group of Orange employees were reportedly leaked to the French telecom industry federation in the past year, urging the telco to halt its plans for 5G on the grounds of health fears.

Bloomberg reports that the memos, authored by an employee collective claiming around 1,000 members called ‘I’m So Green’, were circulated to Orange employees internally via the Plazza social media platform.

According to those familiar with the matter, the memos suggested that 5G would damage the environment and would not be profitable for the operator itself, with smaller players set to benefit the most from technology’s deployment.

“Orange will bear all the heavy investments (licenses, equipment, rollout) that will benefit other companies at the bottom of the food chain and possibly the state,” said one of the memos.

Orange has responded by investigating the leak, but made it clear it will not try to censor its employees.

While the value of 5G for operators compared to others in the telecoms space is up for debate, the fact that misinformation related to the health effects of 5G radiation is so pervasive within a telco itself is quite disturbing. The perceived mysticism of the new technology has produced many wild conspiracy theories over the last year, some of which falsely attempt link the technology to the coronavirus pandemic. Arson attacks on 5G masts, perpetrated by these conspiracy theorists, have become worryingly frequent, with Europe reporting around 140 attacks back in June – 87 of which too place in the UK.

These memos expose, once again, the ugly reality of just how pervasive misinformation can be, especially about something as esoteric as 5G. Couple this with the echo chamber effect intrinsic within social media and it quickly becomes clear that these conspiracy theories are not simply going to go away. Communication regarding new technology has to improve and the telcos themselves must be at the heart of that process.

In a recent speech, French President Emmanuelle Macron compared 5G detractors to the Amish in their attempt ignore the advance of technology in society, saying that the nation must not be afraid to push on with the latest technologies.

Much of Europe has pressed on with 5G deployment and France is set to do the same. Their long-awaited 5G spectrum auction is set to take place later this month, with all four of the major operators set to bid.