What is 5G?
It is the name of the newest cellphone transmission standard (technically Fifth Generation). The term describes more advanced, more efficient technology for radio wave transmission/cell phones/wireless networks. It comes after 1G, 2G, and so on, no surprises there. What is different is the higher frequencies it operates on. It exists up to about 60 GHz, or in the millimeter wavelengths. In the future it may go higher.
Initially, it will be used to transmit information only up to 10 Billion Bits per Second (bps) or so due to error checking and the like. A lot faster than the previous technology of course. It uses a multiple set of wavelengths to improve certain features, like signal clarity. In general, it will assign sub-frequencies as needed so as not to interfere with other uses. It will also allow enough users to expand the Internet of Things (IOT). Not everyone wants appliances on the internet, however.
Always There Will Be Naysayers
Like any new invention, from trains to planes to radios, there will be a bunch of folks against it for some belief that it is harmful. In the case of trains, popular wisdom at the time was saying that at over 30 mph, humans start having difficulty breathing! Later, the motion and sounds on board a train was thought to cause madness in some.
Radio technically was invented in 1897. It was believed to be of limited use due to the curve of the Earth restricting a signal’s range. Luckily, that belief was disproven eventually, and wireless communication grew. From ships to planes to hilltop stations, messages could be transmitted at the speed of light. They were limited only by transmitter power and receiver sensitivity.
“Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.”― Henry David Thoreau
Planes naturally struck some people as inherently bad. “If God had wanted man to fly, he’d have given him wings!”, right? The initial cloth, wood framing and wire of a first generation plane did not inspire confidence in the average person. The horrific tales of falling out of the sky when things went wrong were quite effective in keeping all but the thrill-seekers and far-seeing mechanical types away. Then came massive progress during WWI and afterwards.
What Are the Health Worries Connected to 5G?
With the advent of the modern era, worries have surfaced concerning the higher frequencies today’s devices use. This is mostly due to the increasing amount of data being transmitted over the radio spectrum. It also is a factor in how well the signals travel through weather and around terrain. Even the digital traffic of today is really just changes imposed on a standard, analog, radio wave. With a lot of math involved to extract the digital parts back out, of course.
The latest crop of mostly well-meaning naysayers concern themselves with the effects of the higher frequencies used on the environment and human health. There is no evidence that radio frequencies even as high as 5G’s have any effect on DNA. There’s even a few people that worry that electro-magnetic signals (EM radiation, including light by the way) affect bees. One fringe claim, jumping on recent developments, claims that 5G causes or adds to Coronavirus growth!
Getting down to basic radio science, a typical 5G transmitter on a small mast is about ¼ of a Watt (250 mW). The signal isn’t omnidirectional, but is mostly in a focused horizontal arc of 120 degrees. That is by design. In addition, the higher frequencies exhibit a greater “path loss” through the air. For the math types, the formula is given in this article.
Suffice to say for the smaller 5G units in the main transmission area, 10m (30 feet) away, you would measure 8 micro-Watts (millionths of a Watt) of incident radiation. For the biggest towers, mounted on 30m (100′) masts, if you were 100m (300′) away from it down a hilltop, that drops to under a micro-Watt. Even at a higher power level, you are likely to see less energy due to greater distances. Even the phones connected with it expose you to less energy than the big bricks of old.
Of course those those tower emissions numbers go down as you get further away. To put them in perspective, compare a standard 60 Watt light bulb, 2m (6′) from you. It exposes your body to radiation from light and heat over a million times higher than the above calculations. It clearly is nowhere near as much, and visible light is at a far higher frequency than 5G.
Considerations and Conclusions
By a large body of tested evidence, it is very likely that concerns over 5G are unwarranted. There are a lot of people constantly seeking a way to prove it harmful and win lawsuits. If there is something to be found, it will be. It is of no more valid concern than going to FM was to the AM radio users. If you still have doubts, 3G and 4G will be around a while, don’t worry about using it yourself.
On the political side, big concerns have been expressed over Chinese companies like Huawei getting involved in 5G technology. This stems from worries that backdoors will be built into the software for 5G devices, not any health issues. Unless your 5G phones are made in the Wuhan area, but that is another reason to make things here again. If the Chinese have been manufacturing everything else, it’s not news they are involved with 5G.
In closing, you can rest assured that using 5G is pretty safe to do. Barring sitting next to a large emitter way up on a pole, you should be fine. Be patient with naysayers, they are ignorant of many things. In the future, you can look forward to what uses you will put the faster connections to. Faster streaming, less hiccups, faster gaming, a more connected house (for those that like that), and things we haven’t developed yet. Your grandkids may start complaining about how painfully slow the old 5G is for their VR games and homework apps, just about the time 6G will be around.
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