Fifth Generation Wireless (5G) is the term used to describe the next generation of mobile networks beyond LTE mobile networks, which is engineered to increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks.
The backbone of the 5G standard comprises low-, mid- and high-band spectrum; 5G networks operate on different frequencies with potential peak speeds as high as 20 gigabits per second (Gbps) and millimetre-wave (2 – 60 GHz) at the low and high ends of the spectrum. In summary, 5G technology provides Internet speed of 10 to 100 times faster than 4G!
However, the 5G use of millimetre wave has a few drawbacks: Because it is so high-frequency, the waves don’t travel long distances. It has low coverage area and building (even glass) penetration is poor. That means a device operating on an mmWave-based network will need to be extremely close to a 5G node to catch a signal. This is the reason why there is (and will be) massive deployment of 5G towers around the neighbourhood nearer us (unlike 3G/4G sites).
5G has been live in several cities globally since 2019. It has been deployed in 378 cities across 34 countries.
Is Wuhan the first city to launch 5G?
It is claimed that China started to install 5G towers around the same time that the coronavirus started to spread in the country (around November 2019). While this is true, the mere fact that two things occurred at around the same time does not mean they are related (correlation not same as causation).
Wuhan was not the first city to launch. It was one of the 16 major cities where they tested 5G in China at the beginning (other cities include Beijing, Tianjin, Qingdao, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Guiyang, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Fuzhou, Zhengzhou, and Shenyang). China has gone live and active in 57 cities now. How come it is only Wuhan that had the high case of COVID-19?
Interestingly, the first country to fully launch 5G on a large scale was South Korea, in April 2019. So, how come we did not have cases of coronavirus in South Korea or Germany (which launched around same time) before the g;obal outbreak of the pandemic?
I have attached a table showing the top 10 countries with the 5G network and the cases of coronavirus and deaths recorded from these countries. You would notice that South Korea is the number one country (by number of cities) using 5G network today. They have 85 cities live on the spectrum. In fact, the country has over two million 5G network subscribers. As at June 2019, as early and fast adopters of 5G, they account for more than 75% of the global population of 5G users.
As at March 2020, they have about 5.4 million 5G subscribers (about 10% of its population is on 5G. The highest so far)
You would also notice that South Korea has 10,156 cases of COVID-19 (and 177 deaths). They are not even among the top 10 countries with coronavirus. If the stories about 5G base stations making people to fall on the streets and causing their deaths due to its radiation are true, then we should have lots of reports about this from South Korea.
China is number two, with 57 cities live on 5G and 20.6 million subscribers (1% of its population).
The United States is number three, with 50 cities on 5G with about eight million subscribers (2% of its population).
As at February 2020, Iran, Belgium, Netherlands and Canada have not yet fully launched 5G on a commercial scale and yet they have got frightening numbers of COVID-19 cases as at April 3, 2020.
Iran, 53,193; Belgium, 16,770; Netherlands, 15,723; and Canada, 12,537.
These four countries are among the top 10 countries hit by the coronavirus pandemic and yet have no 5G launch.
I decided the run a correlation analysis on number of cities on 5G (from top 10 countries) and cases of COVID-19 infections and deaths. The results show very weak correlation, hence there is not even any objective basis for us to start associating 5G networks with COVID-19. There is no correlation, not to talk of causation.️
Should we be concerned about 5G?
So many videos and audios are circulating on social media concerning the dangers of 5G. There is a particular one supposedly showing a 5G tower being torn down in China because people feared it was causing the COVID-19 coronavirus disease pandemic.
The footage actually was in August 2019 (before the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China) and shows anti-surveillance protesters tearing down a “smart” lamppost in Hong Kong. Google Anti-surveillance protesters tear down ‘smart’ lamp-post in Hong Kong
The hysteria as a result of misinformation on the correlation between 5G and COVID-19 has now resulted in vandalism of mobile phone masts across the UK and other countries.
The difference between 5G and previous generations of mobile services (4G, 3G) is that the latter use lower radio frequencies (in the 6 gigahertz range), whereas 5G uses both low frequencies (for its low and medium band spectrum) and millimeter waves with frequencies from 30 to 300 gigahertz for its high band spectrum. This range is referred to as “non-ionising” electromagnetic radiation, as there is not enough energy to break chemical bonds or remove electrons when in contact with human tissue. Because the millimeter waves are short, 5G cell towers need to be relatively close together. For it to cover a larger geographic area, more base stations are needed in comparison to 4G. This increase in the number of base stations, and their proximity to humans is one factor that might have stirred the unfounded fears about 5G’s potential health impacts. The interesting thing is that most telecoms companies will deploy more of the low and mid band spectrums (which uses same frequencies as 3G and 4G) more than the high band spectrum (that uses the millimeter waves) based on the trends observed in cities already implementing the 5G.
Studies have been made and are still ongoing on the negative effects of 5G. The only major effect peculiar to the 5G as at today is the production of heat. Most of the studies people talk about today on the health challenges of 5G are actually studies done on wireless phones (which includes 3G and 4G) as far back as 2011. World Health Organization (WHO) together with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have classified all radio frequency radiation (of which mobile signals 3G, 4G, 5G are a part) as “possibly carcinogenic”. This category implies that there is no conclusive evidence that exposure may cause cancer in humans. Regulators and government agencies of countries have strict guidelines and mitigations in place for their safe use. 5G will not be an exception.More studies are expected, a few countries have delayed their 5G launch because they are yet to conclude their studies. No matter the future outcomes, the benefits will outweigh any challenges.
•Adetula is a lean six sigma practitioner, he runs Acceltage Consulting, an ideation company that helps people to think and work smart.
(This piece was written on April 4,