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The truth about the 5G revolution - What we know and what we don't

Udit Verma     March 8, 2019

The 5G technology has already set the stage for some monumental shift in the wireless industry and the global hype-machine is in full swing. Top smartphone makers like Samsung, OnePlus, Huawei have already spoken about a 5G phone and we could have one in our hands soon. Companies working on the 5G technology tell us that it will change the way we live. We are told about 3-D holographic video calls, Internet of Things (IoT), faster speeds, lower latency etc. So, with the new 5G phones coming in 2019, are we only few months away from the next digital age? Well, sorry for being the Negative Nancy but not all is great with 5G and more importantly, you won't see the benefits immediately.

Firstly, to get to the next digital stage with 5G, you need to overcome a very large obstacle. This obstacle comes in the shape of the 5G wavelength. 5G signals act in a different way when compared to the traditional lower frequency 4G wavelengths. 5G signals have higher frequency and shorter wavelengths, which mean the distance between the device and the "tower", must be shorter. Also, 5G signals have weaker penetration power than a 4G signals. So, things like walls can affect the way 5G signals move. Not just that, something as innocuous as a tree or rain or another human being between you and a 5G cell tower can interrupt the signal. The way the phone is held for example can also affect the signal strength (if your hand is covering the antenna, it will attenuate the signal). However, there are ways to get around it- like by placing multiple millimeter wave antennas or small cells at every nook and corner of the city. The wireless companies in the US say they'll have to install about 3,00,000 new antennas - roughly equal to the total number of cell towers built over the past three decades. But, all of that effort will make 5G more expensive, even for the early adopters.

Other than the fact that more cellular antennas in any neighbourhood would be an eyesore, it could also pose potential health risks. The stories surrounding the cell tower radiation are nothing new and have been going around since the 2G days. But, pretty soon we will have mini-cell stations placed throughout our cities and not many studies have been conducted yet on the ill-effects of 5G on the human body. In the US, several voluntary organisations have called for the slow 5G deployment to understand the overall ill-effects of the tech on the human body. Several cities like Mill Valley, California are already making laws to halt 5G fittings and installations.

The world of high speed 5G wireless connections that the big corporations want us to live in is simply unrealistic and impractical for now. At least for the next 5-10 years, the dream of actual 5G connectivity and speeds 100 times faster than your existing cellular connection will just be that, a dream. 5G in the next few years will suffer from the exact same problems of coverage and efficiency that 4G did in its initial years. So, don't jump on to the hype train yet and save yourself from the tsunami of 5G phones coming in 2019, world isn't ready yet.

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