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Kiwis unsure about 5G amidst health and safety concerns
Fri, 13th Dec 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

New Zealanders are aprehensive about the 5G rollout, with health concerns inhibiting people's interest to make the switch, according to new research by Opinion Compare.

A survey of 500 New Zealanders found more Kiwis have sought out information about safety and health concerns of the rollout than the benefits of 5G.

The news comes at the same time Spark announced pricing for the 5G rollout and anti-5G protesters picketed their head office.

Nationwide, there's high familiarity of about 5G, with 81% of the New Zealand population familiar with the term and 41% aware of Vodafone's involvement, 33% with Spark.

When asked to articulate their understanding of 5G, it's a mix of seeing it as the evolution from 4G, delivering high speed/better connectivity but also health concerns and a lack of research into the potential impact of the rollout. While 79% have heard that 5G will deliver faster internet transition speeds; 46% believe that the higher radiation levels emitted by 5G waves could be harmful to humans, 33% stating that 5G waves could be harmful to insects, birds and plants.

These concerns are amplified when a higher proportion of the New Zealand population had sought out information about their safety and health concerns of 5G (19%) versus the benefits of 5G (18%).

When asked to articulate their concerns, Kiwis were vocal in their negativity and concerns:

  • "5G will require some 40,000 satellites to be put in geosynchronous orbit, how many holes will be punched in an already beleaguered atmosphere"
  • "It doesn't matter how fast I can access the internet. I care about my health and my family's. All these wireless transmissions are causing havoc to our health in the long term""The fibre internet I currently have is fast enough. And I am more about eco/environmental concerns. We should focus on saving the planet before we focus on things like faster internet"

While there's some recognition that the rollout of 5G is important for the country (33% saw it as extremely important), Kiwis are yet to see the importance for themselves (17% saw it as extremely important for themselves), showing there's more education needed and some of the fears alleviated, with only 15% stating they would switch providers based on their 5G offering.

Interestingly, when asked about their awareness of hyperfibre broadband, only 8% of the population were aware but with a description of Chorus' plans around it, 40% nominated a likelihood to take up when available, reinforcing the nervous sentiment around the 5G rollout.

Gavin Male, managing diirector of Broadband Compare which commissioned the research, says he isn't surprised by the results .

"We know from visitors to our website that when it comes to switching broadband providers, it's about more than just price," he says.

"Kiwis want the right plan for their needs and to trust their provider. So while the average Kiwi knows that 5G will bring better speeds, they're wanting to know about the value for money and confirmation from the providers that it won't be harmful to them or the environment," Male explains.

"As such, they're currently choosing to remain ambivalent about the rollout."

He adds, "I think Vodafone and Spark will be encouraged with the recognition of their involvement in 5G but they need to be thinking about ways and means to educate a suspicious and concerned broadband consumer."