By now we’re all aware of the crazed hubbub surrounding the slow rollout of 5G technology around the world. Hundreds of people on facebook are protesting the installation of new antennae and making very bold claims about how this is a plot to take over the world, or make everyone sick, or control everyone’s minds. But what is 5G really? And what makes it different to our existing mobile network? Is it really as harmful as they say?

5G stands for fifth generation, meaning it is the fifth widely spread internet sharing technology on the mobile cellular network. Currently 4G is widespread in Ireland, with some areas still dependent on 3G. All of these technologies function similarly, by broadcasting and receiving specific wavelengths of light from the cell antenna to and from your phone.

All of our information technology today works by using light to our advantage. Light comes in a spectrum of energies, and each application of light can benefit from a particular wavelength being used. One of the earliest applications of radio waves on a huge scale was RADAR in the second World War.  Radio waves of a known frequency are blasted out in a particular direction, with a detector waiting to see what bounces back. After several pulses of waves, if the bounces are getting faster, something is coming towards you!

5G can currently be used in three separate frequency bands: low band,  medium band and high band frequency, with the frequencies used for low band overlapping with the 4G bandwidth that has been passing through us harmlessly for years. Other bands are the mid band, boasting frequencies of 1.7-4.7GHz, just stepping into the microwave domain. Finally, the high band operates between 24-47GHz.

All different frequencies of light mean how many times the light swings back and forth each second (Hertz just means per second). For light, this is related to its wavelength, which is the length of the actual “wave” pattern that repeats over and over. As the wavelength gets smaller, the frequency gets higher, and so does the energy!

This is most likely where the conspiracy theorists find the need to alarm themselves. While very high energy photons can certainly be dangerous to life (let’s just say the Hulk got lucky with his exposure to gamma rays), the frequencies used in 5G are nothing to be concerned about. What is more, is that these frequencies don’t travel for as far as the lower radio frequencies used in previous generations. As such, antennae need to be placed close to each other to ensure an even coverage. This allows theorists to come up with ideas like the New World Order is infecting everyone with something in the process.

The clear benefits of 5G are faster download and upload speeds, which are close to rivaling cable, and will no doubt improve as technology advances. So we can all get back to reading our conspiracy theories that bit faster.

 

Bob McLarnon

Class of 2023

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