5G- All You Need to Know

Do you feel you know enough about 5G and whether it is safe or dangerous for us? Also, why are there so many divided opinions? 

What is 5G?

5G is the 5th Generation of mobile networks (hence the 5 and G). Previous generations of

mobile networks include 4G, 3G, 2G and 1G. Today’s popular networks primarily still use 4G and the older 3G network.

1G was developed in the 1980s and gave us an analogue voice.

2G was launched in the early 90s and gave us a digital voice.

3G came to us in the 00s and brought us mobile data.

4G arrived in the 2010s and gives us our mobile broadband. All of these generations have led to 5G today.

5G is set to be the most reliable network yet and is far faster than its predecessors, with greater capacity and quicker response times. It is sometimes referred to as the “network of networks” and can support more devices than any other network- up to 1 million per square kilometre. 4G can only support 100,000 devices per square kilometre in comparison..

It will not be replacing 3G and 4G but is merely another layer to provide a better and quicker service to the busiest cities and events, such as music festivals and other such places and events where demand is massively increased. 

How does 5G work?

5G is simply another layer to the existing 4G network, not a replacement. 

In a nutshell, all wireless communications use radio frequencies. Using higher frequencies allows information to be carried more quickly and is faster- this is where 5G fits in. 

Unfortunately, these higher frequency waves don’t travel quite as well as lower frequency waves. 5G works on three frequency bands- low, medium and high, they require different antennas and give different download speeds. 

  • Low is very similar to 4G but a little faster at 30-250 Mbit/s (megabits per second). 
  • Medium frequency has speeds of 100-900 Mbit/s. This is the most widely distributed and is available in most major cities in 2020.
  • High frequency has far faster speeds at 1-3 Gbit/s (gigabits per second), which is very similar to cabled broadband.

5G will automatically connect to a network via the highest speed antenna in your vicinity. 

More antennas will need to be built over time because of the fact that these signals don’t travel distance (or around objects and through buildings) quite as well as the lower frequency 4G can. By building these extra masts, they will support a better signal for every compatible device.

Why do we need 5G?

5G allows more devices to be supported at the same time, it is faster and far more reliable. You can download movies in seconds rather than minutes and stream with next to no buffering (lagging).  

For gamers, there is an almost instant connection and almost no latency (the time between issuing a command to a device and that command being completed). And if you love your movies, streaming a 4k movie will be effortless and played at its highest resolution. Whatever you are using 5G for, it will, undoubtedly, feel much more rapid than previous networks. 

In addition, 5G promises the rise of more up and coming tech, including some major changes: –

  • Superfast 5G broadband will become available, rather than relying on cabled broadband
  • Landlines may become obsolete as demand ebbs
  • Driverless cars 
  • Potential remote surgery, with surgeons able to perform using medical robots from across the continents 
  • Connecting paramedics to hospital staff to begin treatments sooner in an emergency
  • A considerable jump within IoT devices (Internet of Things) which includes lighting, fridges, smart heating, and the like and not limited to households 
  • ‘Smart’ gadgets, operated remotely, (e.g. Hive) could save families hundreds of pounds over the year by lowering fuel bills 
  • Councils may have the potential to save by using ‘intelligent’ lighting and ‘smart’ bins. 
  • Businesses can transfer large amounts of data in much less time and more efficiently, leading to better profit margins 
  • Better viewing and gaming experiences, including high-quality video calling 

Mobile network provider EE already has the UK’s best and most capable 4G network with the highest speeds and most extensive network coverage. Furthermore, adding 5G to this will put users at a considerable advantage. EE was the first to roll out 5G within the UK, and they will continue to do so during 2020 too. Most major cities are now covered, including many large tourist hotspots also.  

Can I get 5G on any phone?

The one thing to remember is that you will need a 5G compatible phone to access the 5G network. Most of the major mobile phone providers are producing them already with the Samsung Galaxy S20 being the first 5G smartphone to be released on March 6th 2020. 

Myths and conspiracies about 5G

The general scientific consensus is that 5G is safe and has so far been shown to have no negative health impact. Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop rumours, fake news and conspiracy theories.

One of the first myths circulated was that some 300 birds died in the Netherlands during a ‘5G test’ performed over several days. This supposed test was in October 2018 in Huijgenspark, The Hague.

While it is true that a number of birds sadly died, there is no link at all to it being 5G related. There were no tests done at all around that time, although there was a test performed on 18th June 2018 where there was a half-hour demo of 5G in an office, a half hour’s walk from the park. 

Tests were carried out on the birds which reached no conclusion, but it seems that it’s not uncommon for large numbers of starlings to die in this way. 

The television network, RT America (formerly known as Russia Today), aired seven programmes in 2019, with one ‘informing’ viewers about 5G and its connections to brain cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, autism, infertility problems and more, effectively raising fears of a 5G catastrophe. A reporter likened it to an ‘experiment on humanity’. 

This fake news soon spread to hundreds of websites and social media sites. Yet this isn’t the first time this network has been under fire before, due to spreading false information about other diseases and with staff resigning over fears of the channel being a Russian propaganda network.

The latest theory is that 5G has caused the Covid-19 pandemic and resulted in dozens of masts suffering arson attacks within a handful of countries. Over sixty of these were in the UK alone.

Lives are potentially being endangered at such a time by the destroying of the masts. One such mast in the Netherlands had no connection to 5G and was a mast solely for the emergency services.

Conspiracy theorists believe 5G is responsible for Covid-19 due to the frequency it uses, or that it somehow lowers the human immune system. Videos began to emerge on social media of dead animals and people passing out in streets- all due to 5G.

YouTube and Facebook are just two of the social media platforms that are cracking down on fake news regarding 5G and Covid-19, with the videos liable to be removed.

Another ‘popular’ theory is that Wuhan was one of the first places to trial 5G in China, so therefore it must have caused the Coronavirus pandemic. Whilst Wuhan is listed as one of the first, it wasn’t the only city undergoing trials at that time.

Fortunately, scientists have stated that Covid-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets, which cannot be transmitted via 5G. It also cannot damage your immune system in any way. Some of the hardest hit countries with Covid deaths, such as Iran, have no 5G masts, therefore 5G cannot have damaged the victim’s systems.

5G is highly regulated, and there are stringent guidelines to adhere to. Radio waves, such as those that 5G use, are ‘non-ionizing’ which means they don’t have the power to change the structure of a cell- they cannot alter the DNA. Yet most of us, at some point, have been subjected to X-rays and UV rays which do have the capacity to do this.

So, will it cause cancer? The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggested in 2011 that mobile phone radiation should be listed as “possibly” carcinogenic. This may well be an overstatement as many things we come into contact with daily are in similar categories.  For instance, processed meat, air fresheners, cleaning products, and even pickled food. Moreover, it is much more dangerous to use sunbeds or smoke cigarettes. 

There have been many studies citing 5G is harmful to health, but in the long run, they have failed to stand up to scrutiny.

By the same token, in 2014, just 3 years later, the World Health Organization (WHO) also said that “no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use”

After 6 years of research, in August 2016, the FCC chairman proposed to deem mobile phones as safe, including the use of 5G networks. In essence, until there is irrefutable proof that 5G is dangerous, we could continue to reap the benefits it has and allow it to evolve within society for the better. Alongside this, PHE’s (Public Health England) view is that ‘the overall exposure is expected to remain low relative to guidelines and, as such, there should be no consequences for public health’.

5G and China

There are many concerns over the use of Chinese branded tech and subsequent fears of espionage. Some countries, UK, America and Australia to name just three, are taking action to limit the use of some equipment within the 5G networks, feeling that Huawei, as one of the biggest Chinese companies, could pose significant security risks.

Worldwide, countries are either phasing out Huawei equipment or have outright banned it from being used. The UK has allowed Huawei a limited role in building 5G networks even though deemed as ‘high risk’.

China has emerged as a viable competitor in the race for 5G and ensuing technology equipment. Huawei has faced numerous allegations of misuse of information, theft of corporate information, and having received funding from the People’s Liberation Army.

The President of America, Donald Trump, signed an order in May 2019, imposing restrictions on business with ‘foreign adversaries’ that involve information and communication technology. China has since asked for evidence to be presented regarding any allegations by the US and consider these actions to be a ploy to try and stay ahead in the technical world and are politically motivated. 

The founder of Huawei has said they will not allow the Chinese Government any access to data and has never given any access in the past and that the privately owned company has no affiliation to the Chinese authorities. 

These issues are far from resolved, and will take a long time, if ever.