MAJOR concerns have been raised about attacks on 5G masts in Bradford, with those responsible urged to stop before someone is seriously injured – or worse.
Three, the telecommunications and internet service provider, says its engineers have faced abuse simply for doing their job, with one mast coming under attack four times.
The Telegraph & Argus has reported on a number of deliberate attacks on masts in recent months. In November, dramatic pictures emerged of a mast in a residential area of Bierley engulfed in flames. When such attacks have happened, police have driven home the point that any deliberate ignition “presents a significant risk”.
It has also been a problem on a national level and earlier this year, UK mobile network providers warned against the spread of “baseless” conspiracy theories linking coronavirus to 5G.
Peter Gilson, Director of Radio Access Networks at Three, spoke to the Telegraph & Argus about the issue in Bradford and why it is such a worry.
He said: “Clearly from a financial aspect, it’s a problem.
“That’s secondary from my perspective.
“The most important part is the health and safety of the people of Bradford.
“When you burn down a mast, it’s not specific to 5G, it’s one of our masts, what happens is you’ve got a large piece of metal there.
“Firstly it’s up in flames, it’s been attacked and damaged, which creates the problem of, potentially, some parts of the metal being loose and falling either during the attack and hurting somebody who’s actually involved in the attack, or later on, a passer-by walking past can get smacked on the head.
“The risk of death is there.
“This is a large piece of metal falling out of the sky on somebody.
“That is a potential in this case and it is really worrying for me.
“Also, those attacks can happen when our engineers are present, so I’m sending people to sites who could come under attack.”
He added: “We have lots of instances through the year, not just in Bradford but right around the country, but in Bradford, where we’ve had verbal abuse, people have been spat at, people have been called names and their cars have been scratched.
“People shouldn’t have to go to do an honest day’s work and come under attack like this, it’s really not fair on them.
“I don’t understand, I don’t know why and it kind of almost doesn’t matter for me at this point in time – it’s the fact of the matter.
“My plea is to ask people to stop, you’re putting yourself and other people at risk.”
Mr Gilson also highlighted the damage to the network itself, particularly in the context of a year when many people have relied on online services.
“In terms of coronavirus and the current circumstances, people are more isolated, people feel more vulnerable, people need to be connected,” he said.
“As soon as you take a mast out, you lose that connectivity.
“People who are at home, either are struggling more so because now they can’t connect to loved ones, potentially they can’t order their shopping, if you’re at home working, then you cannot work.
“I think it’s incumbent on everybody who’s involved in this to stop and think about what they are doing and why.
“By all means if they’ve got a problem, take it to their local councillors, write to their local MPs, within their community groups, try to find some way to address those issues.
“But the kinds of problems that get reported such as 5G is causing coronavirus, it’s just not real, it’s a made-up problem.
“Stopping 5G doesn’t stop coronavirus, that’s an absolute guarantee.”
He revealed one mast in Bradford has been attacked four times, with acts of abuse towards staff and physical damage to the site.
“Burn it once, it turns it off, burn it a second time, it doesn’t get re-built quickly,” he said.
“My engineering teams are at risk, the local population are at risk – and that for me is the biggest concern about this,” he said.
“We’ve actually taken action, we’ve written to the local MPs, we’ve written to the Council and asked to see what we can do to help them, if there’s any engagement with local communities to do that.”