Last week I stumbled on a documentary about 5G. The title suggested that 5G will bring about catastrophe. So, I decided to watch it...

It was easy to watch, thanks to good editing and pacing. The information about health risks identified for existing mobile technologies (including 4G, wifi, etc.) was interesting. I'd heard that new research showed potential health problems from excessive 4G/wifi use. Countries such as France have banned wifi from nursery schools and restricted their use in elementary schools.

Apocalyptic?

The documentary interviewed someone who claimed that 5G uses military weapons technology (e.g., the frequencies used are also used in crowd control weapons). When I was working on my PhD, one of my colleagues was adapting missile guidance technology for robotics. So, military weapons technology for civilian use. No big deal.

Chemtrails were also brought up. Chemtrails are actually contrails; cloud formation triggered by vortices from aircraft wing-tips, engines, etc. "Chemtrail" theorists believe that we're being nefariously sprayed from jet airliners with chemicals for evil intent. Actually, in the documentary they talked about nano-particles. I'm sure nano-particles are flying out the back of jet engines in the form of burnt kerosene residue, a.k.a., soot.

Their main point seemed to be that there has been zero safety testing of 5G, so we're all the test guinea pigs. I can't comment on that, because I don't have the research data needed (apparently, nobody does), so let's move on.

Amazing?

As an engineer, I'm very impressed with the technical achievements of 5G. The high frequencies used (up to 52.6 GHz), the very high bandwidths and low latency. MIMO (Multiple-In-Multiple-Out) beam forming to direct beams to individual users. The specifications and the engineering behind them are a marvel.

Meh?

Technology's purpose is to improve our quality of life. At least, that's what got me into engineering; taking what we've learnt through science, and using it to build devices (and other things like bridges and buildings) that make our lives better. So, how does 5G do in this department?

High bandwidth and latency? I can already stream movies with 4G/LTE, and it's more than good enough for casual web browsing. Mind you, I use a laptop/desktop for serious web-browsing because tiny screens and fat fingers kind of sucks. So, 5G's way higher bandwidth makes little difference to me.

What about the Internet of Things (IoT)? 5G allows a huge number of devices to be connected per square kilometer. Everything from your pot-plants through to your fridge could be online. But why? Don't get me wrong, the IoT has its uses. But, I don't need or want all my devices to be connected online. The benefit for all this is minimal at best.

We have a wifi connected air-purifier. The wifi connection allows you to operate it using your phone. However, first, you need to make an account on the manufacturer's server, meaning communication goes via their "cloud." No thanks. I don't want sensors measuring my entire life and uploading it to cloud servers. There's little benefit for me, and I have to trust that the cloud provider is 100% honest, and doesn't use the data for anything else (e.g., running it through AI to help them sell me even more IoT devices ;-) ).

I might use IoT devices in future for something like green-house monitoring. However, it'll be connected directly to my private wifi, NOT the public mobile network.

My Verdict

5G is a technological marvel, but one I have little use for. Existing mobile technology is more than adequate for my uses. So, I won't be buying a new phone or tablet any time soon. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent, and a huge infrastructure is being built (e.g., 800,000 base stations needed in the USA alone). That's a huge investment for limited returns. And, all that infrastructure needs to be maintained...

It's a good idea for us engineers to take a step back every now and then, and ask "why are we doing this?" "What's the benefit?" "Is this really worth it?" Sometimes we can get so caught up in the technical side that we lose track of our why.

What about you? Do you need/want 5G? Have a good use for it that 4G/LTE doesn't support? If so, let us know in the comments section below.