Government and industry sources believe that at least 20 mobile phone masts have been vandalised across the UK since Thursday.
There have been small groups of attacks on phone masts around the West Midlands and Liverpool. Many of the masts that were damaged only contained 3G and 4G equipment as 5G has not been rolled out across the whole of the UK yet.
Mobile operators are especially concerned about staff safety, as telecoms engineers performing maintenance on infrastructure have been confronted by members of the public.
Network providers and home broadband operators believe that there were around 30 incidents last week, with some encounters being filmed and shared on social media.
O2 have supplied their engineers with signs to display in their vehicles whilst they perform maintenance. The signs read ‘Key worker, keeping your network running’. The company hopes to convey the message that communications workers have an important role maintaining networks during the crisis.
The government will meet with the social networks in the coming days in order to see what can be done about the spread of false claims regarding 5G. However, there is little that can be done to stop such material being passed around on messaging apps such as WhatsApp.
International radiation watchdogs have repeatedly assured the public that 5G is safe. Despite this, theories about the risks of 5G have been gaining traction on the internet over the last few weeks.
The resistance to the next generation of technology isn’t new for the industry, as previous generations of telecoms technology have faced similar claims. However, there was a rapid increase in the number of claims linking 5G to COVID-19 last week, which was brought on by some influencers and celebrities, catching the government and the industry off guard.
There are many groups on Facebook who are opposed to 5G technology, but the website has had to delete multiple pages that encourage acts of vandalism against the phone networks in the last few days.
After a suspected arson attack last Thursday night on a mast in Birmingham, the number of attacks started to rapidly rise. Vodafone stated that six of their sites were attacked over the weekend, with other operators confirming that they had seen a similar number of incidents.
The industry group uniting the four major mobile network operators in the UK, MobileUK, wrote an open letter to their customers asking for help in curbing the acts of vandalism:
“We have experienced cases of vandals setting fire to mobile masts, disrupting critical infrastructure and spreading false information suggesting a connection between 5G and the Covid-19 pandemic,” the letter says. “There is no scientific evidence of any link between 5G and coronavirus. Fact.
“Please help us to make this stop. If you witness abuse of our key workers please report it. If you see misinformation, please call it out. Your help will make a real difference”.
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