Good vibes only: Should we be concerned about 5G technology coming to India?

As several countries ramp up their 5G connectivity plan, many have also raised alarm over its repercussions to society.
Only 61 countries in the world have 5G connectivity today.
Only 61 countries in the world have 5G connectivity today.The Bridge Chronicle

India is on the verge of a technological revolution. As a country, we took our first (albeit unwanted) steps towards this decision during the Covid-19 pandemic. There is an ever-increasing need to have a fast-functioning wireless network to compete with the rapidly growing data nowadays. We're definitely displaying no signs of slowing down, and it shows.

Before we could make peace with 4G, we turned towards the possibility of 5G connectivity in the country. And perhaps we're heading towards the destination with absolute advancement. That said, so far, only 61 countries have gotten around to having 5G connectivity — according to GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association). At this pace, it may appear impossible to cover the globe with a 5G connection. But there are several reasons why it is still lagging in most places. Today, mobile phones in India have already introduced a '5G ready' model to embrace the rapidly advancing change that the country is hoping to welcome. If you're wondering where to begin reading about it, here is a summary of what this phase of digitalisation means for us:

What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation of wireless technology, and it will surpass the current 4G connectivity used today. Previously, we've seen examples of the first cell phones (1G), text messaging (2G), online capabilities (3G), which led us to faster speed (4G). Although in the developing stage, 5G forecasts to use five varied types of technologies to complete complex tasks in short durations.

What can 5G do?

Think of a regular two and half hour movie; 5G connectivity will download this for you in less than five seconds. A 5G network can boost speed and delay latency. Considering how the future is to run fully automated, there's no denying that 5G will bridge the gap between thinking and executing.

How does 5G work?

According to a report published by Nordrum, Clark, & IEEE Spectrum Staff (2017), the five new technologies include hardware that works with higher frequencies (millimetre wavelengths), small cells, massive MIMO (multiple inputs multiple outputs), beamforming, and full-duplex. It is to note that millimetre waves are a higher frequency wavelength than the average radio wavelength generally used in wireless transmission today. With these technologies, 5G hopes to expand the potential of several devices used (and being developed) today.

Why is 5G claimed bad for our health?

Several scientists, citizen groups and medical experts claim that the possible health effects of radio-frequency (RF) energy sent by 5G base stations are allegedly bad for our health. Apart from this, there's also an ongoing debate about its repercussions on the environment. Several scientists also pointed out how 5G networks use technology that has harmful effects on birds. This effect, in turn, has cascading outcomes through entire ecosystems. More than 180 scientists and doctors from 36 countries in Europe (EU 5G Appeal) warned the government about the possible side-effects of exposure to electromagnetic radiation.

In fact, several had already begun protesting against 5G when it was at an early stage of development. In 2015, 215 scientists from 41 countries communicated their alarm to the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO). In this appeal, they stated how publications show that EMF [electromagnetic fields] affects living organisms at 'levels well below most international and national guidelines'. Apart from birds and animals, a report published in New Learn also spoke about humans undergoing more severe issues. Including alteration of heart rhythm, altered gene expression, altered metabolism, altered stem cell development, types of cancers, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, DNA damage, impacts on general well-being, increased free radicals, learning and memory deficits, Impaired sperm function and quality, miscarriage, neurological damage, obesity and diabetes and oxidative stress.

A similar report published by France's High Council on Climate mentions how bringing in 5G could lead to a sharp increase in power consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Counter arguments for 5G connectivity

In contrast to the claims, a report published by Telefonica's O2 talks about a few finds in the UK where 5G applied areas such as manufacturing, transport and healthcare could save up to 269 megatonnes of CO2 by 2035. Delving further, it talks about how 5G will help improve the remote working experience for employees across the globe. However, experts believe that this is because employees will spend their time working from home and not commuting daily for work.

According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, 2019, by 2025, 5G will attract 2.6 billion subscriptions, generating 45 per cent of the world's total mobile traffic data. It will also connect approximate 65 per cent of the world's population in a couple of years, only to become the fastest communication technology to be rolled out for society.

Despite these claims, one thing is given: the society requires internet to function in today's time of digitalisation. Wi-fi found itself at the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy, albeit the last slab! And while bringing in 5G will certainly mean technological advancement for society, it doesn't deliver something entirely different to the human race. Its primary function remains the same — and only talks about providing a signal strong enough to enforce communication.

Even today, network providers are making minute changes (densifying) to their connectivity in order to manage their ever-increasing load. Several countries have brought forth RF (Rheumatoid Factor) exposure limits to avoid hazards of RF energy. A handful of countries, including Italy, Belgium and India — and cities such as Paris — have approved lower limits of this exposure on "precautionary" grounds. That said, more studies continue to follow the adverse (or advantageous) effects of 5G connectivity. As individuals, perhaps, the least we can do for ourselves is limit our exposure to electromagnetic waves and radiation. It is difficult to stop 5G technology from making a mark in the country, so as the saying goes, it's better to be safe than sorry!

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