What You Should Know About the Coming of 5G

It probably won’t kill us, but there are a few issues you should know about

Aimee Pearcy
OneZero
Published in
8 min readDec 12, 2019

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Credit: Ralf Kunstmann/Getty Images

TThere has always been a level of public opposition to cellular technology, but the voices of dissent have been rising significantly since the introduction into the public lexicon of 5G, one of the biggest buzzwords of 2019.

“How would you feel if you knew that an untested technology is being deployed across America with no government oversight, no transparency, no public input, no regulations, and no long-term studies on health and environmental impacts?” reads a 2017 article published in a blog called The Foghorn Express. It’s titled: “The 5G Network: What You Don’t Know May Kill You.”

Even as these dire warnings seem to litter the internet, few people seem to know what 5G is for, how it works, and in particular, why it has become so controversial.

How is 5G different from 4G?

5G is a marketing term that just means that it’s the fifth-generation cellular network technology. The “5” doesn’t really measure anything — just that it came after the fourth generation, or 4G. The jump from 4G to 5G will be much bigger than the previous jump from 3G to 4G — and this is down to the difference in wavelength between 4G and 5G.

4G uses radio waves (which measure tens of centimeters in length), whereas 5G uses millimeter waves (which mostly vary from 1–10 mm in length). The shorter wavelength of 5G means it can carry data much faster than 4G, which promises significantly faster download and upload speeds (a movie that would take seven minutes to download on 4G would take just six seconds on 5G) and more stable connections. A report by OpenSignal, published in February 2019 reveals that “in the U.S., the best 4G download speeds were 1.9 times faster in the late hours of night — when networks are quieter and most users are offline — than during the day and evening leisure hours, when networks most need to offer a great experience for their users. India’s best 4G download speed was 3.9 times faster than the speed experienced at the slowest time of day.” 5G’s high-bandwidth, high-frequency spectrum bands will help to mitigate this congestion and support more simultaneous users.

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