Thursday, April 09, 2020

A Few Non-Technical Facts About 5G

5G is so named because it is the fifth generation of wireless cellular data networking to be widely deployed. The main advantages are increased bandwidth and decreased latency.

Lately there have been many colourful conspiracy theories trotted out about 5G, along with less extreme health claims. But like all such campaigns, these rely on spreading fear and uncertainty, making people distrust evidence-based sources and those who are more expert than the reader in relevant fields. Take this as a typical example:

"5G means densification, with each individual, visible antenna being replaced by thousands of tiny antennas menacing people, animals and nature from every nook and cranny on Earth and from 20,000 or more satellites with lethal, laser-like beams hitting their unwitting targets millions of times a day like silent bullets."

The negative energies demonstrated by this statement are far more damaging to our psyches and personal well-being than anything cellular telecommunications is likely to come up with. For that reason I present a few non-technical facts about 5G.

1. 5G largely uses the same infrastructure as 4G, in the low and mid frequency bands. So if you weren't worried about the current/previous technological infrastructure, and commonly use a mobile phone, you needn't worry about 5G either.

2. The newer millimetre wave transmitters used for certain 5G installations are very low power and have low range. They are also very poor at penetrating surfaces. The radiation is in the radio frequency band. If you aren't currently worried about the radio signals that bounce off you all day, you shouldn't worry about 5G.

3. FM radio or television signals are absorbed by the body up to five times more readily than signals from cellular base stations. Over half a century, radio and television transmitters have been broadcasting without any adverse health consequences. If you aren't worried about your television killing you, there's no need to worry about 5G.

4. Typical exposure to electromagnetic radiation from a 5G radio tower is a fraction of a milliwatt. By contrast, exposure to the sun (also an electromagnetic radiation source) is far greater, around 150–300 watts per square meter. If you aren't worried about the sun killing you (and it can!), then you needn't worry about 5G.

5. Radio waves are non-ionizing radiation, meaning they do not damage our cells. Whereas ionizing radiation such as x-rays, gamma rays, and ultraviolet frequencies can damage our cells directly, causing cancer. There is a fundamental difference between these radiation regimes.

6. The National Cancer Institute has stated that the incidence of brain and nervous system cancer has decreased slightly from 2000 to 2016, the time period where adoption of mobile phones increased to 96% of the US population. There is no evidence-based consensus that ill health has resulted due to wireless technology.

All of this does not mean that 5G is "proven safe" or that "all evidence" points to 5G as being perfectly safe. Nothing can ever be proven safe. There will always be doubt; that's how science works.

It's never true that all evidence points in one direction. There will be outlier articles published in peer-reviewed journals that contradict the consensus. Science can tolerate diversity and still progress. This fact is unappreciated by those who think that everything in life needs absolute winners and losers. Life is not a game.

Consensus and rational appreciation of available facts is always necessary. For this we must trust those who dedicate their lives to the study of fields we are largely ignorant of.

Yes, trust. Remember trusting a mechanic to fix your car, a dentist to fix your teeth, a pilot to fly an aircraft? We trust professionals to do their job better than we can. We do not accuse all pilots of being in a giant conspiracy to stop us from flying wherever we wish. We do not believe that dentists are in some giant tooth conspiracy (in alignment with the tooth fairy, no doubt).

The ability to admit that others might know more than us on specialist subjects is, unfortunately, not a widespread skill. Rampant individualism has empowered people to think that they know everything, that their opinion is as valid as anyone else's. News flash: It isn't.

Rather than trust random people on the internet (you know, like me) I refer you to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), National Cancer Institute (NCI), and World Health Organization (WHO).

(Apologies for the preponderance of sources from the USA. I have found these to be more detailed in their content than other sources.)


1 comment:

groakes said...

It's been a while (pre covid) since I visited your site but let me just say that I appreciate the sensible, scientific comments you have posted. I hope that you remain well and if self isolating, have the energy to be creative.

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