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5G: What is it, what will it do, and is it safe?

5G is the next generation of mobile communication technology that will be rolled out across the UK over the next couple of years.

It wasn’t until 3G was launched in the mid-2000s that web browsing became ubiquitous on smartphones.

The increased data capacity of 4G allowed for video and music streaming to become a regular part of the smartphone experience too.

Improvements on speed, bandwidth and access will be a dramatic part of 5G’s roll-out, and the increase in data is set to impact mobile communications for many more parties than just consumers.

What is it?


Mobile phones communicate with electromagnetic radiation, and electromagnetic waves on a particular part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

5G uses a new band of the electromagnetic spectrum to send signals through the air – a portion from 22Ghz to 86GHz, wavelengths that are larger and thus less powerful than even visible light.

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There are issues with the higher frequencies used by 5G. They will have a shorter range and so more cell towers will be required, and the smaller waves could struggle to provide coverage inside – but the impact will be more data, more often, and consumers, businesses and industries can all benefit from that.

While not as damaging as a full ban, analysis commissioned by Britain’s industry body for mobile firms, MobileUK, says the restriction could delay the country’s 5G roll-out by up to two years and cost the country £6.8bn in lost profits.

What will it do?

Where these profits will come from is still uncertain, but it is assumed that 5G will deliver productivity benefits due to the telemetry it allows in industrial processes.

The smart systems and industrial processes that produce telemetry data will be the key beneficiaries of 5G. It will be less noticeable for consumers, where even under 4G videos are often capable of playing as quickly as they are being downloaded.

Instead, the increased data collection in smart objects, from household devices through to driverless cars, is expected to herald a new age of telemetry and data analysis that can improve our lives.

According to the UK network Three: “5G will enable transformative technologies to be deployed across key industries that will make everyone’s lives better.

“5G’s super-fast speeds, capacity and low-latency could have a huge impact across our health services, in our manufacturing processes and overall in improving the nation’s productivity.”

The firm added that it expected consumers to use 13 times more mobile data in 2025 than they use today.

Image: Nreal’s augmented reality glasses could be part of the immersive tech 5G allows

A spokesperson for EE told Sky News: “We’re still in the very early stages of this new generation of mobile technology, and today 5G is about giving customers a faster, more reliable connection – particularly in busy places.

“New devices, like the Nreal AR glasses we’ve showcased that provide immersive experiences even on the move, will change how consumers interact, game, and watch,” they added.

EE continued to say: “5G introduces new levels of reliability, capacity and flexibility for a wide variety of connections and uses, whether at home or at work.

“As we get to more mature 5G technologies, from around 2022, we’ll start to see a wider range of connected things for consumers, a surge in the ‘Internet of Things’ and connected homes, and the beginning of a revolution in how UK businesses operate.

“Next generation network technologies like 5G will help ensure we’re ready for the explosion in connected devices, new experiences and uses, and amount of data that we’ll all be using in the years to come.”

A spokesperson for the government said the benefits of 5G were key to its industrial strategy.

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“We are determined to seize all the opportunities of 21st century technology and 5G has the potential to generate significant economic and social benefits in the UK,” they said.

“The technology will enable innovation in manufacturing, smart cities and augmented reality, and bring mobile speeds up to 10 times faster than current 4G. This means downloading an HD film will take seconds rather than hours.

“5G could also revolutionise sectors such as driving, with sensors in vehicles sharing real time data of incidents and bring advances in healthcare.”

Is it safe for your health?

Last year, a parliamentary petition with more than 29,000 signatures called for an independent inquiry into the health and safety risks of the next generation of mobile technology.

The government turned down the request, noting there are multiple such enquiries taking place in the UK and internationally to monitor whether electromagnetic radiation is harming people.

Is 5G safe for your health?

The parts of the electromagnetic spectrum which are used by 5G communications – the portion from 22Ghz to 86GHz – are non-ionising and incapable of breaking molecular bonds, knocking off electrons from atoms for instance, and causing the molecule to have an electric charge, which is how radiation causes certain cancers.

However, there is a concern that the the 26 GHz band (between 24.25 GHz to 27.5 GHz) which is being sold internationally as part of the 5G spectrum – although not in the UK – could interfere with how weather satellites monitor water vapour.


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