5G is a massive breakthrough that’s going to change the way devices connect to the internet and to each other. The UK is set to join tech giants China with their commercial rollout of the new fifth-generation (5G) wireless network, with major telecommunication companies preparing to roll-out 5G enabled devices worldwide.
5G has become a widely debated topic within tech and science communities, and whilst the discussion has unveiled some potentially major advances for technology, it has also raised cause for concern surrounding the networks detrimental impact on public health.
It’s time to talk about the real impact of 5G and how the next-generation of mobile broadband could potentially affect our day-to day lives, for better or worse.
1. The link between electromagnetic radiation used by all mobile phone technologies and potential health risks such as cancer isn’t anything new. However, with the rollout of 5G bringing new base stations, booster antennas and increased exposure to micro and radio waves, fresh concerns have been brought to the surface around the risks the new network might pose, with a group of scientists and doctors even calling for the rollout to be put on hold. Whilst there is no reputable evidence that mobile phones or wireless networks have caused us health problems so far, “the technology is still too young to draw a conclusion” (Germany's Federal Office for Radiation Protection).
2. One of the more exciting prospects of 5G is the advance in augmented reality and self-driving cars. The new network technology promises more speed, more capacity and lower latency. The enhanced latency in 5G is anticipated to aid the development of autonomous vehicles by permitting direct communication from vehicle to vehicle. Could we soon see a truly intelligent transport system?
3. Due to the range of 5G, which is much smaller than other network technologies, there will be many smaller base stations created. This means more costs and an extended implementation period, which may see pressure placed on an already in-demand infrastructure. It’s not all doom and gloom though, smaller areas may see a boom in business if networks decide to move out of the cities in search of lower costs and higher connection speeds.
4. 5G may also hold the key to powering the next generation of robotic devices. Surgeries could be performed by robots being controlled in real-time by expert human surgeons on the other side of the world. Like the autonomous vehicles, 5G will also allow robots to communicate with one another allowing them to share tasks and positions wirelessly, making tasks like farming much more efficient.
5. It’s no secret that 5G is going to be fast, like, really fast. And whilst this all sounds great, the reason for its high speed could also be another stumbling block for the new wireless network. The technology uses a mix of frequencies, predominantly millimetre waves, in comparison to 4G’s 15-40 centimetre-long waves. Shorter waves and higher frequencies don’t travel very well, 5G will max out at around 300 meters and can’t travel through walls or rain, whereas 4G can travel up to 10km before you notice a loss of signal.
6. Festivals, football matches and airports are just a few of the places you’ll have noticed that it’s almost impossible for you to load any web pages or social media platforms without seeing a dreaded loading bar (if you’re lucky). This is due to the bandwidth, which is essentially the amount of space available for people using data to stream videos or complain about the delay at gate 6 at Heathrow Airport on Twitter. 5G will see increased bandwidth for all users meaning loading bars and error messages may soon be a problem of the past.
7. Concerned by a skills shortage and an increased demand to deliver products faster and more cheaply, the manufacturing sector is hoping for 5G to answer some of their prayers. The new network is expected to bring automation like manufacturing has never seen before. Smart factories are expected to be implemented, allowing processes to become more efficient and cost-friendly, while augmented reality is once again a hot topic bringing opportunities for remote maintenance.
5G is clearly going to bring about some revolutionary changes in the way we live our daily lives, but whether these changes will impact us for better or worse is still unclear, with concerns raised around health risks being unsubstantiated and questionable signal ranges. However, one thing that is clear is that these changes certainly won’t happen overnight, and it is going to be a long and costly process. So, it may still be a couple of years yet before we see the future of self-driving cars or drones delivering our Amazon Prime orders.
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