The truth about 5G

Like with other new technologies of their time, 5G has been the target of scary theories. Remember the rumors swirling around in the 1980s about the risks of using a microwave oven? Or how about the one about jet contrails really being poisonous chemicals? To make it clear, there is no reputable scientific evidence that 5G causes any health issues. It does not cause coronavirus, cancer, infertility, autism or kill birds. Conspiracy theories aside, there is still a lot of confusion around this technology, so let’s take a look at where we are with 5G.

First of all, what is it? 5G is the next generation wireless technology following 4G and offers up to 100 times faster speeds than are available with 4G. It uses shorter wavelengths, which accounts for increased speed and a separate bandwidth. This means that a device must be compatible with 5G to use it. This does not mean 4G is going away. If you have a 4G or 3G phone, you will be able to use it for many years — certainly, your phone will give out long before the 4G and 3G wireless networks are phased out.

5G will not replace the Wi-Fi in your house or in any building. The downside of 5G is that the signals have difficulty moving through walls. You may be aware that internet service providers such as CenturyLink are offering a 5G router, but it will only work if the router is placed next to the device that needs the internet connection, which makes it virtually useless in all but this special case. Walk into a different room and your phone or other device will not be able to use the signal.

Service providers are slowly rolling out real 5G (not to be confused with AT&T’s 5G E, which is only an upgraded 4G). In Salt Lake City, Verizon and T-Mobile offer 5G in certain areas. You’ll have to check with your provider to see when 5G becomes available where you live. 5G requires new infrastructure like building or upgrading cellphone towers, so you can be sure that if you live in a highly populated area, you’ll get it long before your friends in rural areas.

You should know that the only phones that are 5G compatible run on Android, including the Samsung S20 due to be released on June 4 at Verizon. However, do note that even if you buy the phone, it likely won’t run on 5G initially. In its fine print, Verizon says, “Downloads over 5G Ultra Wideband; uploads initially over 4G LTE, but will not count against your 4G LTE data plan.” Apple is scheduled to release its first 5G iPhone, the iPhone 12, this fall. There are conflicting reports about a delay, so the usual October availability could slip to November or later.

The bottom line of this discussion is you’re probably looking at 2021 to take advantage of 5G based on phone availability and upgraded towers in your area. But before we end this topic, two more myths should be dispelled. First, 5G will not interfere with weather data, which comes from satellites. Trust the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) that has addressed this rumor: “Wrong on the merits, on the facts, and on the process.”

And finally, 5G is not a cover for spying on users; no tracking technology is being built into the new towers. Most telecommunications experts agree that 5G is the most secure network yet. According to CTIA, enhanced privacy protections are being baked into the 5G standards, including encryption of each device’s IMSI (unique user identifier). Further, wireless providers are extending the security of 5G wireless networks to other networks — called home network control — when a user is roaming or using a network like Wi-Fi. So if you are comfortable using your 4G network now, you’ll be even safer when you eventually opt for 5G.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about and reviewing personal technology for the past eight years. She has designed and manages several international websites and now runs the marketing for a global events company. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.

  • By Leslie Meredith Special to the Standard-Examiner
  • May 27, 2020

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