5G Networks: An Overview Of Benefits And Health Concerns

5G networks

Aside from COVID-19, 5G networks seem to be a big talking point; some good and some not so good. There was certainly an air of excitement in 2018 when many telecommunications companies proposed plans to adopt 5G technology but it wouldn’t all be smooth sailing.

While the benefits are astronomical, you can’t deny the findings that 5G may be harmful to us and our environment. In this article, we take a brief look at the core benefits of using 5G networks and some of the controversies surrounding its implementation.

What’s The Difference Between 4G And 5G Networks?

4G is common across the globe and started in the late 2000s replacing 3G. At the time, 4G revolutionised mobile internet as it was 500 times faster than 3G. It also opened the door for HD TV on mobile, high-quality video calls and faster web browsing. Introducing 4G was monumental in mobile technology, especially in terms of bringing us better smartphones and tablets.

Considering that IoT (Internet of Things) is the future, 4G simply cannot handle the massive number of connections that will be on the network. However, 5G can as it’s smarter, faster and more efficient. It is also further-reaching which means it can help connect people in remote parts of the world.

5G networks promise significantly faster mobile data speeds than today’s fastest home broadband network. With speeds of 10-100 gigabits per second, 5G could be as much as 100 times faster than 4G.

IoT and 5G networks

4 Major Benefits Of 5G Networks

The deployment of 5G networks will have several benefits over 4G which every business can take advantage of. While many of these benefits apply to business and personal use, some are specifically tailored to improve business mobility solutions. First, let’s take a closer look at what 5G can bring to the table.

1. Improved Speed And Throughput

This plays a critical role in mobile browsing experience as 5G will enable you to stream in 4k videos. To give some perspective, a decent 3G connection delivered enough speed to stream in HD where 4G can easily stream 1080p videos. This means peak data rates will increase to 10 Gbps and mobile data volumes to 10 terabytes/km. Thanks to this major improvement, any location with cell and data service will be more accessible.

2. Better Frequency, Less Interference

Unlike 3G and 4G devices being on the same spectrum, 5G uses different frequencies. This means it won’t be as crowded, resulting in less interference, better speeds and very low distortion and noise. Also, 5G antennas are more directional than 4G towers which project signals in 360°. Once more, this means 5G networks won’t interfere with other signals in the area.

3. More Reliable And Better Latency

Latency is the time delay of the signal travelling from a source device to a target device. Early forecasts suggested a 5ms end-to-end travel time which is faster than the blink of an eye. As 5G technology continues to improve, you can expect to see close to real-time responses between devices. Some say it could be as little as 1-millisecond latency compared to 4G’s 50 milliseconds.

With advanced technology and improved latency, 5G networks are likely to be 99.999% more reliable. This brings about incredible benefits to several industries, especially healthcare and aviation, where quick response time is vital. While 5G does offer much lower latency than 4G, the exact values will only be known after the official rollout.

4. More Bandwidth

Finally, 5G will also have more bandwidth than 4G and that means you can connect more devices to a single internet port, like a router. There will be no issues with overloading that is normally the case when connecting several internet-hungry devices to a single router.

Smart homes may not be widely adopted at the moment but they are inevitable and 5G will be hugely beneficial. Why? Because it needs to host multiple devices with internet access which, more often than not, use your router.

Is 5G Bad For You?

Since the announcement of 5G, the technology has had its fair share of bad publicity but how concerned should you really be? Fact is, qualified scientists and doctors have even signed moratoriums concerning the 5G roll-out.

However, as with anything online, don’t believe everything you read and focus on the facts. Two of the biggest hoaxes have been the story about birds dying in the Netherlands and that 5G caused the coronavirus. Science has, once again, come to the rescue to put this fake news to bed!

What about Radio Frequency Radiation (RFR)?

Radiofrequency radiation is anything emitted in the electromagnetic spectrum. This includes frequencies from microwaves, x-rays and radio waves to light from your computer monitor or light from the sun. According to several compelling research studies, RFR is not inherently dangerous but there are certain circumstances where it could be.

Using the term “radiation” loosely can be confusing (and dangerous) as many people think of fallout from nuclear weapons. There are two types of radiation – ionising and non-ionising. While the former can damage cells and cause DNA mutations, the latter is too weak to break chemical bonds.

The way to determine whether RFR is an issue is seeing whether it falls into either of those categories. Suffice to say, 5G doesn’t along with the following:  

  • ultraviolet, visible light
  • infrared
  • lower frequencies like radio waves
  • power lines
  • FM radio and Wi-Fi in general

The Importance Of Continued Research

Dr Steve Novella, an assistant professor of neurology at Yale and the editor of Science-Based Medicine, believes that most concerns about cell phone RFR is misplaced since non-ionising radiation doesn’t cause any DNA or tissue damage. He said: “There’s no known mechanism for most forms of non-ionizing radiation to even have a biological effect.”

As with any type of research though, there’s more to it than that. Just because there’s no known mechanism doesn’t’ mean it’s safe or that no effect exists. With something this serious, researchers continue to conduct studies that will be crucial to telecommunications companies and the general public.

5G networks

3G RFR Research Study

Research studies can reveal everything or end up meaning nothing at all. An example of this comes from a recent study by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an agency run by the Department of Health and Human Services in America.

This study was widely used to spread information about cell phone RFR but the results were inconclusive, to say the least. Scientists found that high exposure to 3G RFR led to some cases of cancerous heart and brain tumours, and tumours in the adrenal glands of male rats.

While it seems like ‘good data’, there are some issues which could render this sort of study irrelevant:

  • They only detected the tumours in male rats with a number so small that the tumours could’ve statistically occurred by chance
  • The rats were exposed to excessive levels of RFR, far exceeding what any human would ever be exposed to
  • Controversially, the irradiated test rats lived longer than the unexposed control rats

Final Thoughts

There may still be some unknowns around 5G networks but as it stands, many of the claimed health risks are just assertions. Research results should always be taken in context and not blown out of proportion depending on which side of the fence you’re on.

To date, there’s still very little ‘real science’ to stand behind the claims that a higher frequency is harmful as 5G remains non-ionising. Further evidence is needed to conclude whether the widespread implementation of the technology is a health risk or not.

With 4.5 billion people using the internet and more to come in the future, we need better technology so if not 5G, what else?

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