The rollout of 5G connectivity is having a huge impact, with some people looking forward to lightning fast download speeds and others concerned about the health and environmental risks of this new technology. 5G is the latest and fifth generation of cellular network technology, and promises faster speeds, lower latency, and greater reliability than its predecessors. 5G is about 60 times faster than 4G, with better speeds and bandwidth achieved through the use of higher frequencies and therefore shorter wavelengths.
5G is different because it uses microwave technology, which is further up the frequency spectrum and less likely to penetrate physical objects. This is one of the things that seems to scare people, with its deployment implemented through the installation of new cell towers and beacons on existing infrastructure. 5G will involve many more cell boxes than 4G, with smaller wavelengths less able to go through walls and living things. Interestingly, the higher frequency of 5G actually increases reflection rates and limits energy absorption to the surface layers of the skin.
The wavelengths used for 5G technology are in the millimetre range, which is causing alarm with some people. While there is a lack of scientific evidence, microwave radiation is said by some people to cause dizziness, sleep problems, fatigue, and breathing difficulties among other problems. Perhaps the most famous, and certainly the most quoted, opposition to this technology comes from Martin Pall, a retired professor from Washington State University: “Putting in tens of millions of 5G antennas without a single biological test of safety has got to be about the stupidest idea anyone has had in the history of the world.”
Not all radiation is the same, however, with internet connectivity utilising non-ionizing radiation that is simply too weak to break chemical bonds. In contrast, ionizing radiation can cause cellular or DNA damage with prolonged exposure, including ultraviolet radiation, X-rays, and gamma rays. Non-ionizing radiation lacks the power to break these bonds, however, with 5G closer to the ionizing range but still well and truly on the other side. In fact, in-between harmful X-rays and millimetre-long 5G waves lies part of the spectrum we hold quite dear - visible light.
The new nature of this technology is causing concern, with a number of national governments remaining on the cautious side. The Belgian government halted 5G tests earlier this year over radiation concerns, with Switzerland, the Netherlands, and some US states looking deeper into the impacts of this technology. However, while critics say 5G hasn't been tested, according to the developers, there is absolutely no evidence that 5G is dangerous: “The wavelengths that 5G uses and will use are all entirely safe and have been in research and testing for decades. It’s a red herring to say it’s a new technology and therefore hasn’t been tested."