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08 July 2022

Five 5G myths and the reality

Five 5G myths and the reality

5G Myths Debunked

5G is causing a stir. On one hand, there is excitement over 5G’s capabilities, including capacity for more connected devices, lower latency, decreased energy demand, lower costs, and speeds of up to 100 times faster than 4G. Additionally, 5G enables network slicing, which gives providers the ability to create multiple virtual networks that ensure critical operations always have the communications they need. 

On the other hand, there is also quite a bit of concern about these next-gen communications networks. When a new technology is introduced, it’s not unusual for people to need some time to understand and develop a sense of comfort about it. The chatter about 5G, however, is sparking some myths and conspiracy theories that are wildly unusual, even by science fiction’s standards. 

To help set the record straight, here are the facts you need to debunk these five 5G myths. 

5G Causes COVID-19

You can trace this conspiracy theory back to social media with the idea that 5G was behind the global pandemic. Like many false claims and opinions shared on social media, the theory spread quickly. 

Although people are debating the safety of the electromagnetic radiation (EMF) associated with 5G, EMF doesn’t cause coronavirus. A virus does. This 5G myth may have had more to do with the panic over COVID-19 and less to do with 5G. 

5G Isn’t Safe

Speaking of EMF, people have speculated that exposure to this type of radiation may be responsible for a wide range of conditions and illnesses from cancer and infertility to autism and Alzheimer’s disease. 

To debunk this 5G myth, go straight to the OfCOm. Most spectrum licences issued by Ofcom include a condition (the EMF licence condition) requiring licensees to ensure compliance with the limits in the ICNIRP Guidelines on EMF exposure for the protection of the general public. We refer to these limits as the “general public EMF limits”. The condition applies to licensees whose radio equipment is currently authorised to transmit at powers higher than 10 Watts EIRP or 6.1 Watts ERP. 

Looking at this issue from another perspective, 5G may actually make the world a safer place. It provides first responders, healthcare providers, and government officials with the secure, reliable networks they need to support systems that ensure health and public safety. 5G also opens the door to innovation to provide new services in these vital areas.

5G is Part of a Plot to Spy on People

Debunking this myth only takes an understanding of what 5G is. 5G itself is not a surveillance system. It is a communications network. It is not likely that it would be easier to spy on someone on a 5G network than on 4G. 

Instead of surveilling users, 5G’s goal is to enable more devices to connect. It’s the necessary next step in the evolution of mobile/cellular networks in response to an increasingly connected world. It supports the entire spectrum of users and use cases, from consumer Fitbits, smartphones and voice assistants to industrial robots, autonomous vehicles and smart cities. 5G also makes services leveraging advanced technologies, such as virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR), more feasible. For connected ecosystems already in place, 5G will help them work better; for those just in the idea stage, 5G can help make them a reality. 

Expanding how many devices can connect to a network takes transforming communication network architectures. 5G relies on multi-access edge computing (MEC) to move data processing from centralised data centres (i.e., clouds) to the network edge, close to applications and end users. 

For example, consider the impact of rapidly increasing remote work during the pandemic. It put a massive and unexpected strain on the network. Thanks to MEC, 5G actually enables less communication to and from the cloud and can manage the greater demand for computing power, worries about spying, notwithstanding.  

5G Will Interfere with Weather Predictions

Another 5G myth is that these new networks will somehow make predicting the weather more difficult or less reliable. Meteorologists have expressed concern that 5G will interfere with satellite communications since 5G frequencies are close to those that detect water vapor levels, often used in weather forecasting. 

OfCom, however, disputes this claim, explaining that 5G technology minimises stray signals, and the 24-GHz band in question will probably be limited to dense, urban areas. 

5G is Going to Make Our Phones Obsolete

In past communications network transitions, you may have had to upgrade your mobile phone, for example, when 4G replaced 3G. The transition from 4G to 5G, however, is different. Some 5G networks are building on top of existing networks. Service relies on a “handshake” between the phone and a 4G network before establishing a 5G connection. This strategy has enabled carriers to roll out 5G faster, and it also means you’ll be able to keep your phone – and it may even work better. It will take a few years before standalone networks, which allow devices to connect directly to 5G, are widespread. And by then, everyone will have a chance to upgrade their phones. 

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