It quickly becomes apparent that the technology you thought was so new and cool instead feels outdated or even ancient. If you are one, what is usually called early adopter, then it can be a full-time job to keep up with what is the newest trend.
And what’s really on the wall right now, is 5G.
It is time for 5G
What?! Another G? People talked about 2G, then came 3G, 4G still feels pretty new and fresh. And now 5G is widely talked about. After all, it wasn’t long since LTE was released. In fact, it’s not easy to keep track of all different wireless standards and what all the different G versions stand for.
Now, people are working with 5G, all over the world. But what exactly is so special about 5G? How will it affect our everyday lives? And maybe most important of all, is 5G dangerous?
5G is created for IoT
Sure, it is super nice to know that you can stream movies on Netflix in 4k without any problems, but that is not why 5G was created. Internet of things, usually called IoT, is something that is expected to become very common in the near future. IoT is a way to connect different devices with the internet and therefor make them “smart”. Through IoT, we are said to be able to get things like self-driving cars and refrigerators that tell us when the milk has turned sour. In order to handle all the data that will be required when more devices constantly need to send and receive information, a very robust mobile network is required. And that’s mainly why 5G has been developed.
What people talks most about when it comes to 5G, is speed. And yes, the speed of 5G is significantly better than on the 4G network. Suppliers talk about speeds up to 20 Gigabit/second! And therefor, significantly faster than the fastest LTE network available today. Not even Google’s fiber connections is close to these speeds.
It is important to mention that this is a theoretical maximum, when it comes to speed. More likely, the average user will experience speeds around 100 Megabits/s and up. This is still a lot faster than LTE networks are today.
But how fast is 100 Mbps? What does that mean? To put it in perspective, you can compare it to the early internet. If you were one of those who used internet when it began to spread to get wide spread, the internet had a speed of 56 k. A regular website today requires about 2 mbps, which means that if you were sitting on a 56 k modem, that page would take about 10 minutes to load. If you have a speed of 100 Mbps instead, the same page (slightly rounded) takes zero seconds to load.
5G should reduce latency
When clocks, appliances, cars, mobile AR and VR and more need to use large amounts of data, it is not just a higher speed on the internet we need. We also require a shorter delay, what is usually called latency. Imagine a self-driving car, that takes half a second to long to make a critical maneuver. At best, it can lead to a damaged car and at worst it can be crucial to people’s lives.
5G should reduce the latency to as little as one millisecond, and by that enabling real-time management of important devices.
So how come 5G can be so much better than 4G? Part of 5G’s strength is that it uses a much higher frequency. 5G uses what is called millimeter wave frequency, which can be wavelengths up to 300 GHz. In Sweden, 5G is planned to be at 3.4-3.8 GHz.
The higher frequency means that the technology has better capacity for beamforming. Networks, such as 4G and LTE, sends out even signals in all directions. Beamforming is a technology that makes networks smarter as they can direct data streams to connected devices. That way, signal strength is not wasted by sending it right out into empty space.
5G also has MIMO, short for Multiple Input Multiple Output, which contributes to a very strong network. MIMO is a technology that allows multiple users to use the same connection at the same time with multiple antennas on a transmitter and receiver. Something similar to MU-MIMO (Multiple User, Multiple Input, Multiple Output) that is often used when you want to be able to have multiple users on a Wi-Fi at home.
Combining the higher frequency, that 5G has, with MIMO you not only get a faster network, you also get a better throughput.
When explaining how throughput works, one usually uses the analogy of a Chinese highway with 50 lanes. Under the best conditions, such a highway can handle millions of cars per hour. But that is provided there is no maintenance, no accidents, no tolls and so on. Place something on the road that stops one or more lanes and you quickly get a bottleneck. A network is like a highway, things happen on the road that create stops. So the maximum speed is rarely the one that can be used. 5G is like a road that is very carefully maintained and with 5G you get an even throughput.
Many users of 5G in the same place
The higher frequency and MIMO helps to avoid bottlenecks. Something that is extra important with the rapidly increasing number of things using the internet. It is hoped that they will be able to deliver a stable network to as much as 1 million units/square kilometer. Something that can facilitate mobile use in places where many people gather, such as concerts and large fairs.
Is 5G dangerous?
It has long been speculated as to whether the phone is harmful to the body. If the screen can damage your eyes. If the radiation emitted by the phone and your Wi-Fi connection can be carcinogenic. The bottom line of these concerns is that the phone does not actually have very much impact on our health, except that we tend to become stationary with our lazy browsing.
Now, when 5G is on the wall, we start asking ourselves the same questions again. The reason why the turmoil has flared up with 5G is its use of a higher frequency, which means more energy.
High frequency means higher energy
5G uses what is called millimeter wave frequency, a wavelength much shorter than that used by 4G and Wi-Fi. Because the wavelength is shorter, it also has a higher energy. Wi-Fi uses a wavelength between 2.4-5 GHz and LTE uses 2.5 GHz. 5G can use a wavelength up to 300 GHz. As you can notice, it is not a small increase between the various standards.
So the question is: can all this extra energy, we will be exposed to, be harmful?
IARC and radio wave classification
Those who claim that 5G can be dangerous, demonstrate actions taken by the IARC. IARC stands for International Agency for Research on Cancer. The IARC has classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields, ie radio waves, as possibly carcinogenic. Simply put, IARC says radio waves can cause cancer.
“The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.”
5G has the same classification as coffee
What !? That sounds very scary when you read it, that radio waves can cause cancer. But it probably feels a lot less scary if you dig deeper into it all. There are many everyday things that is counted as possible carcinogenic according to IARC, for example coffee. Their definition of “possible carcinogenic” means that there is limited evidence that something may be causing cancer. There may be a weak link that has been observed between the product and cancer. But it is far from saying that there is a clear link between the product and cancer.
Rumors of bird death due to 5G
Although many things we use today are classed as possibly carcinogenic, many have stuck to that fact when talking about 5G. There were even rumors that 5G would have caused a large number of birds death in the Netherlands. However, it turned out that this rumor was false and the birds had just eaten poisonous plants.
Much higher frequencies are required to be dangerous
The reason you don’t have to worry too much about 5G is that the radiation from the frequency must be significantly much higher to be considered ionizing. Radiation that is ionizing can damage your DNA and cause cancer. The thing is that the threshold for this is about one million GHZ. Keeping that in mind, a maximum of 300 GHz doesn’t sound so dangerous.
Of course, it’s hard to say that, with unequivocal security, there is nothing with 5G that can be dangerous. There may be some mechanism we do not yet understand. But when it comes to the radiation and energy that 5G emits, it seems we don’t have much to worry about.
5G in Sweden
5G is slowly starting to be tested around Sweden. But there is a battle going on which carrier should have access to the frequency on which 5G should lie. PTS published a draft on a limited number of permits, which many see as a threat to competition.
- 5G is expected to give us download speeds of about 10 Gbit / s.
- 5G is created for IoT, the Internet of things.
- 5G has a much higher frequency than 4G.
- The new standard is expected to handle more units in the same location.
- 5G has a higher throughput.
- 5G uses Beamforming and MIMO
So to sum it all up. You may not expect to start using 5G altogether in the near future, but don’t be surprised if your mobile, in a few years, can help with many things you couldn’t imagine today. let 5G lead the way.