The myths around 5G and the coronavirus – Oh and what is 5G ?

There is a conspiracy theory that claims 5G is connected to the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19). This is wrong. There is no scientific basis or credible evidence for these claims.

In some places, mobile phone masts have been vandalised because of these incorrect claims. Engineers from mobile phone companies have also been harassed as they carried out their work.

Like previous generations of mobile technology, 5G uses the radio spectrum. Every device that communicates wirelessly needs to use this spectrum – such as radios, televisions, car key fobs, baby monitors, wireless microphones and satellites.

Mobile phones use this spectrum to connect to masts so people can make calls and access the internet.

Infographic highlighting the airwaves 5G (current and planned for future use) sitting within the non-ionising radiation frequency bands. ICNIRP states that this means it does not have sufficient energy to break chemical bonds or remove electrons, as opposed to ‘ionising radiation’, which occurs at much higher frequencies and is generally considered to be hazardous to humans. Ionising radiation includes ultraviolet, medical X-rays and gamma rays." after 'humans. Other items on the scale include current 2G, 3G and 4G airwaves, Wifi and Terrestrial Television, also in non-ionising bands.

What is 5G ?

5G follows previous generations of mobile technology such as 2G which introduced us to the internet on mobile devices by GPRS and EDGE. 3G, which led to the launch of smartphones, and 4G, which enabled faster browsing, allowing us to do things like watching videos on the move.

What is the difference between 4G and 5G ?

The main difference is speed. The average download speed of 4G is 35Mbps, and on 5G it is between 130-240Mbps. The speed of 5G is expected to improve even more, and some company’s have got 5 times that speed during testing.

Can 5G technology effect humans ?

5G sits in the same area of the electromagnetic spectrum as 2G, 3G and 4G. This area is known as Nonionizing radiation – this is the term given to radiation in the part of the electromagnetic spectrum where there is insufficient energy to cause Ionization. 

So you may ask what is Ionization or Ionisation ? This is the process by which an atom or a molecule acquires a negative or positive charge by gaining or losing electrons, often in conjunction with other chemical changes. The resulting electrically charged atom or molecule is called an ion. Ionization can result from the loss of an electron after collisions with subatomic particles, collisions with other atoms, molecules and ions, or through the interaction with electromagnetic radiation. 

Mobile phones communicate by transmitting radio waves through a network of fixed antennas called base stations. Radiofrequency waves are electromagnetic fields, and unlike ionizing radiation such as X-rays or gamma rays, can neither break chemical bonds nor cause ionization in the human body. To put this in a language we all understand, the above means that the radio frequency used by 5G (and other mobile types) can not damage us.

Tissue heating is the principal mechanism of interaction between radiofrequency energy and the human body. At the frequencies used by mobile phones, most of the energy is absorbed by the skin and other superficial tissues, resulting in negligible temperature rise in the brain or any other organs of the body.

This explains why some people complain of headaches, fatigue, dizziness or concentration difficulties, symptoms which have been suggested to be triggered by exposure to radio frequency fields, not just mobile phone usage. Such complaints have raised concern that certain individuals may be more sensitive than others to electromagnetic energy.

This self-reported condition has been referred to as electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). Although some new studies provided some indications of a link between radio frequency exposure and single symptoms, taken together, the findings are not consistent.

It is possible that talking on your mobile phone may give you a headache, but most likely not because of the mobile phone technology. Mobile phones are essentially two-way radios that work by transmitting low levels of radiofrequency energy or radio waves from their antennas to and from nearby base towers that are connected to telephone networks.

Mobile phones emit a specific type of radio wave called microwaves, which are the longest waves in the electromagnetic spectrum. As a result, they are non-ionizing, which is considered to be harmless at the low levels emitted by the phones.

According to the WHO a large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.

Fact vs. Fiction

I have seen someone laying 5G cables – You don’t lay 5G cables, 5G is a wireless technology. Of cause any mobile phone mast requires cables going to it, for example power cables and fibre optic cables that link the mast back to the main network.

Here is a picture of a 5G mast they have put up in our town – Not all new mobile masts that go up are 5G, many are just standard 4G masts, unless you work with mobile radio technology you wont be able to tell the difference between a 4G mast and a 5G mast.

My own wireless router at home has 5G built in – No, it has 5Ghz WiFi which is something totally different. 5Ghz WiFi is a WiFi technology that is designed to replace 2.4Ghz WiFi. It is faster but 2.4Ghz WiFi has a longer range.

Click here to read the UK government guide on 5G which you may also find useful.

Information via Ofcom, WHO and our own technical staff.

Duncan Newell

Duncan is a technology professional with over 20 years experience of working in various IT roles. He has a interest in cyber security, and has a wide range of other skills in radio, electronics and telecommunications.

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