What is 5G anyway?
5G is the next generation of technology standard for cellular networks. It is an upgrade to the 4G LTE network that we use on our mobile devices on a daily basis now because 4G is reaching its technological limits of how much data it can transfer quickly across blocks of spectrum.
The 5G spectrum enables more devices to be used within the same geographic area. By comparison, 5G can support about 250 times the number of devices on 4G in the same square area. This means more Netflix streaming, voice calls made, and YouTube videos being watched, without interruption, over the same air space.
5G speeds can range from 50 megabits to several gigabits per second with much lower latency and congestion than existing cellular networks. Although speeds can still vary based on various factors, such as which frequency spectrum they are utilizing and the quality of the connection to their device .
Unlike 4G LTE , though, 5G is not only aimed at just enhancing connectivity, but bringing and enabling new experiences that weren’t previously possible or feasible on 4G networks due to its limitations. Things such as self-driving cars, certain logistics, the Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial IoT, etc. will vastly benefit with enhanced 5G connectivity.
A good example would be streaming services like YouTube and Netflix that are both facing serious strain on their networks and bandwidth due to the increased internet usage during the COVID-19 situation and are forced to reduce the maximum viewable quality of their videos. With 5G, this wouldn’t be a problem, as it operates on a whole other frequency than regular cellular networks, so it is not prone to getting bogged down with over-usage.
The 5G rollout in America
The Big-3 — Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile — were the first to begin offering 5G in cities throughout the country in 2019. Since then, 5G coverage has become increasingly common across the U.S., especially due to the legislative push it has had behind it.
A map and list of cities that have 5G coverage by specific operators can be found here on this website: https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/5g-availability-map/
A thing to note, though, is that the expansion of 5G is still in it’s infancy. It must grow and mature itself before it changes how everything around us works. Experts have said that 5G itself is not the magic bullet that will make everything faster on its own. For example, even people living in a 5G-enabled zone with a 5G-supported phone, are not likely to see a big advantage in using it right now compared to before, if any at all. That is because 5G is mostly an ‘enabling technology’ and requires many other new complementary technologies to come with it.
As such, the 5G network requires a whole new infrastructure with special towers and hot spots to install and set-up to work. Covering more and more areas to expand its range is a daunting task to say the least — and expensive too –hence its limited coverage area thus far. Unfortunately, expansion work can see further delays this year due to a lot of the infrastructure technology required being manufactured in China. Because the factories and production is stalled due to COVID-19, the supply chain is facing additional obstacles right now.
Is 5G harmful to your health?
Several parties have raised concerns about the potential health risks of this technology to humans, but no concrete evidence has been found to this claim so far. The most common concern raised is about the biological effects of radio waves interacting with the human body due to the complex structure of the 5G infrastructure, which involves setting up antennas and towers in very close proximity to homes and buildings. People fear that this might amplify these harmful effects due to increased exposure to radio waves.
The 5G network achieves high-speed data transmission rates by utilizing higher transmission frequencies over the air waves. The physiological effects of electromagnetic radiation change with frequency, so the advent of 5G triggered a major international review of relevant radiation safety guidelines, for which it has been agreed that there is insufficient data for a meaningful health risk assessment.
After extensive studies and research so far, we know that at higher frequencies, such as in 5G’s case, the radio wave penetration into the body and absorption actually becomes less and less, unless it is a really high-frequency, which 5G never reaches or operates. In fact, it’s essentially something else at that point anyway. Even the World Health Organisation says that no public health risks and consequences are anticipated from 5G.
The scientific consensus has leaned heavily towards it being safe and any claims to the contrary have been based on conspiratorial red herrings. Many blame old reports run by a single source, without scientific support that sensationalized the effects of radio waves by linking it to various medical issues. In turn, it was picked up and spread by hundreds of other outlets and blogs without any fact checking. People spread similar misinformation and fear about 4G when it was released back in the day. Today, 4G networks are denser than we could have ever imagined around us back then. Our exposure to radio waves has only increased since the advent of 4G, and we have so far not seen links to major long-term exposure risks caused by them. The newness of any technology tends to make many not trust it.
Regardless of the conflicting claims on 5G and initial pushback by some, it has been widely accepted around the world without any issues so far. The United States, China, and South Korea are leading the race to adopt and deploy 5G technology. It is expected to open a whole new field of innovation, jobs, and opportunities, as more and more technologies spawn to take advantage of the 5G system. Even though it is still in its infancy, It will be exciting to see what doors this new technology opens for the future .