Overview of 5G technology
As our society continues to grow, more and more people will be consuming more and more data ever than before. With today’s wireless technology, people are crammed on the same band of the radio-frequency causing less bandwidth for the countless number of people. To combat this problem wireless engineers are starting to transmit signals on a new spectrum using Millimeter Waves (MMW). This type of signal uses extremely high frequencies and is used in satellites or radar systems.
Due to the shift to MMWs, this signal will have a hard time traveling through obstacles such as buildings and absorbed by rain and foliage. Combating this problem will force cities to incorporate small cell, which are portable mini base stations that require little power to transmit 250 meters away. These small cells will require a greater infrastructure from cities that want to implement 5G technology. One added benefit is that the size of these antennas is smaller than traditional antennas. Here is a video showing how small cells are installed on light poles:
Even though the time to install a small cell is less than two hours, the number of small cells required to build a 5G network will make it hard for rural areas to receive internet access. In my opinion, isolating rural areas should not be the case as wireless technology improves. Being from Texas, there are many rural areas that would not have the same highspeed experience as a dense city.
Another advancement that 5G introduces is Massive MIMO (multiple in multiple out). Originally, traditional antennas have eight ports to transmit and four ports to receive data, so 12 ports in total which will cause performance issues when more people are joining the network. With Massive MIMO, now the number of ports are close to one hundred ports (22 times capacity increase).
With more ports, there is a higher chance that cellular traffic will cause interference with other cellular traffic. In an effort to stop interference from happening, wireless engineers are using beamforming. Beamforming is a traffic-signaling system for cellular base stations that identifies the most efficient route to the user. In the end, the countless signals that this antenna will experience will need a systematic way of sending and receiving data to reduce interference.
The last advancement that I want to mention is the antenna’s ability to transmit and receive data at the same time, on the same frequency. The circuit design needs route incoming and outgoing signals so they do not collide while an antenna is transmitting and receiving data at the same time. This technology is called Full Duplex and it is about time engineer implemented this in our networks.
These are the major components of building a 5G network. With these antennas placed in your city, users should be able to download a high-definition film in under a second. Also, there will be less than a millisecond of delay and download speeds of 20 gigabits per second. So in other words, this technology will blow your mind away.
However, there are some issues I have with this new wireless technology. One issue is that rural areas will not have the same experience as densely populated areas. Another issue is the extremely high frequencies (30 to 300 gigahertz) being close to schools or any public place.
Are MMWs worth the faster speeds?
Radiofrequency radiation (RFR) is anything emitted in the electromagnetic spectrum, from microwaves to x-rays to radio waves to light from your monitor or light from the sun. The real question here is: under what circumstances will make RFR dangerous for the general public?
A recent study completed by the National Toxicology Program, scientists found that high exposure to 3G RFR led to some cases of cancerous heart tumors, brain tumors, and tumors in the adrenal glands of male rats. The level and duration of the RFR exposure were well in excess of what any actual human would ever be exposed to, and in fact, the irradiated test rats lived longer than the unexposed control rats.
In 2011, the World Health Organization weighed in, classifying RF Radiation as a Group 2B agent, which is defined as “Possibly carcinogenic to humans.” With the rat experiment taking place after WHO declared this statement, people now have a better understanding of the harms of RFR.
In German, researchers studied 1,000 residents who lived in close proximity to two cell phone towers for about 10 years. According to the study, during the last five years of the observation, researchers discovered neighbors living within 400 meters of the cell towers were diagnosed with cancer at a rate that was three times higher than those who lived much further away.
Besides MMW being carcinogenic to people, “The deployment of 5G constitutes a massive experiment on the health of all species… Because MMWs are weaker than microwaves, they are predominantly absorbed by the skin, meaning their distribution is quite focused there. Since Skin contains capillaries and nerve endings, MMW bio-effects may be transmitted through molecular mechanisms by the skin or through the nervous systems,” said Dr. Moskowitz.
Dr. Stein from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University argues the human skin has the ability to absorb more than 90% of microwave radiation and will cause major problem from head to toe, especially for kids, elderly and pregnant women.
According to the picture above, microwaves are considered non-ionizing which means that these type of radiations are too weak to break chemical bonds. However, microwaves are the only exception. MMWs are non-ionizing and able to damage tissue. They’re precisely and intentionally tuned to resonate with water molecules. Last time I heard, our bodies are made of mostly water. Even though microwaves are non-ionizing, the radiation is still able to do damage to species.
Cell towers should not be near schools, hospitals or homes. Those areas are just going to have to deal with the boring 4G technology that does not damage people skin.
Why should I care?
At Senate Commerce hearing, Blumenthal raises concerns on 5G wireless technology’s potential health risks. At the end of the exchange, Blumenthal concluded, ” So there really is no research ongoing. We’re kind of flying blind here, as far as health and safety are concerned.” It’s good to know that the government is thinking about our health and safety, yet I bet there will be no push for more research from them. There will be no stoppage from the federal government when installing these small cells.
Another major issue that 5G will impact our well-being negatively is its ability to mess with the accuracy of weather forecasts. “Unfortunately, today’s spectrum reality could directly impact the future of accurate weather readings,” the association continued. “Spectrum is a finite resource and as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) looks to free up spectrum for emerging technologies like 5G, the risk of interference with existing users rises, in both the incumbent band and the adjacent bands.”
“I don’t doubt that there may be some issues with the frequencies that close together, but I doubt that this will change the rollout of 5G,” said Phoenix-based Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research, high-tech research and advisory firm.
I want to make it clear that I have mixed feelings about this topic. I do not know what will happen to us in the future, but given the previous studies, it does not sound good.