We all read numerous times news media stories that advertise 5G as the next must have technology. As telecoms say it, every industry and every person should have 5G or… be a loser. This mantra has deeply permeated into news media and social media and feeds frenzy of technology geeks.
But is it so that very soon there will be no life without 5G? Do we really need it everywhere in our environment? Or is it just pure propaganda?
So, as I have frequently asked: are we being duped by telecoms?
Article published in the Wall Street International Magazine (unrelated to the Wall Street Journal) “How deep is 5G fake news? A letter to Greta Thunberg: 5G’s costs, benefits and myths” by Miguel Coma explains the myths and… demythifies 5G.
5G is not a green technology, it needs a lot of electricity, it needs a lot of rare metals, often extracted in Africa with child labor. 5G will not help to lessen the climate change, just the opposite.
Here are few quotes from the WSI’s article where Miguel Coma explains what the telecom industry claims and what the reality is.
As Miguel Coma writes: “I take the mobile industry’s stories about 5G’s potential for technological revolution with the highest caution. Here is a quick summary of common myths about 5G.”
- 5G speed: “While 5G can deliver speeds above 1000 megabits per second (Mbps), high-quality videoconferencing needs just 0.3 Mbps; high-definition (HD) needs 1.5 Mbps. On a mobile device, the highest perceived image quality can be attained at 1.5 Mbps. Netflix recommends 5 Mbps for HD streaming on a large screen. Telemedicine (including surgery and medical imaging) can require between less than 2 Mbps and 40 Mbps. The ideal speed for Internet browsing is 8 Mbps. For ultra-HD (4K) videos (for very large screens), Netflix recommends 25 Mbps. The need for speed in virtual reality ranges from a few to a few hundred Mbps for extremely immersive future applications. Here’s the myth-buster: with over 1000 Mbps, the latest 4G technology can provide all of these speeds. Improvements in image compression promised by artificial intelligence (AI) can reduce required speeds even more.”
- Latency or response time: “The industry claims that 5G could offer latencies below one millisecond (ms), but roundtrip latency in tele-surgery is already unnoticeable under 300 ms. Video streaming requires 25-75 ms. Online gaming is set around 50 ms. To eliminate the sensation of waiting between pages, Web browsing needs 25-50 ms. Again, 4G satisfies these latencies with as little as 30-40 ms in real conditions. Manufacturers that need even lower latencies could install privately-owned 5G Phase 2 networks.”
- Massive numbers of connected devices: “While 5G could reach one million connected devices per square kilometer, a combination of different alternative IoT2 technologies could already connect this many machines.“
- Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (I-IoT), machine to machine communication: “The industry frequently claims that 5G is necessary to the IoT. Yet, 5G might actually add confusion to an already vast and complex IoT market3, where infrastructures already compete with each other. In a factory, however, robots, cameras, cutting lasers, high-precision drills, etc. (which need low-latency connections on highly automated production chains) could benefit from an on-site private 5G network with increased security. This does not require a public 5G network.”
- Autonomous vehicles: “(AVs) use multiple sensors to perceive their immediate environment. Artificial Intelligence (AI) devices replace the human driver. Once “trained” to drive well, the AI can be loaded in the vehicle and drive—without 5G. AVs also use vehicle-to-anything (V2X) communications to exchange data with other nearby (equipped) vehicles and road infrastructure (such as stoplights). Here again, 5G is not necessary. Wi-Fi, 4G and light can provide V2X communications.”
- Drones “require connections in three dimensions. Today, drones mainly use ground antennas that point to the drone and existing satellite communications. Mobile networks are designed to serve users near the ground—not drones which fly at higher altitudes. Mobile networks can be an option for small, low-range, low-altitude drones but they pose many technical challenges. Drone “highways” could be created with 4G or 5G antennas that point to the sky to direct drones, but they would not require a 5G public network.”
- Smart cities: “might become heavy users of the Internet of Things. But again, existing IoT technologies can provide these connections. They do not need 5G.”
- Smart grids: “aim to automate utilities with IoT sensors and remote operations. Smart meters measure a ratepayer’s electricity, water and natural gas use. To avoid blackouts, critical smart grids automation needs highly reliable fibre optics and other wireline infrastructure. For non-critical applications and smart meters, existing IoT wireless technologies are already available. 5G provides no benefit to smart grids or smart meters.”
- In farming “manufacturers advocate for robots and drones that could use AI to monitor crops and cattle with ultra-high-definition images. Industry proposes that AI could replace the human farmer. While I’ve got issues with machines growing our food, I should report that if AI is embedded in farming machines, 5G is not needed. Without 5G, we could still see faster processing with the lowest possible response times—and no exposure of crops, livestock or pollinators to 5G electromagnetic radiation.”
- Tele-surgery and tele-consultation: “sometimes involving x-rays, echography, RMI or robotic operations, need extremely reliable networks. Typically, reliable networks are wired. Mobile networks like 5G are only suitable for demonstrations with a dummy. Tele-consultation’s required speeds (2-6 Mbps) and latencies (below 300 milliseconds) can actually be achieved with 3G. Medical centers in remote areas without specialist-physicians, can provide tele-consultations with wired networks. Very remote clinics can use existing satellite networks. 5G technology provides no benefits to telemedicine.”
- Virtual reality: “(VR) is mostly used indoors with fast and low-latency, fixed networks like Wi-Fi or Wi-Gig. For travelers, immersive VR applications using 4G are already available and only require 4 Mbps. Indoor and outdoor Augmented Reality (AR) is less data-consuming than VR and can use existing fixed (Wi-Fi) and mobile (4G) technologies. I should caution that studies on VR’s health effects (including children’s vision) are very limited.”
Miguel Coma ends his article with very ominous paragraph (emphasis added by DL):
“After months of intensive research and discussions with experts and industry players, I still have not found one convincing need for wide-scale, public 5G networks. At this historic moment, when human immunity needs to be stronger than ever, why would we risk emitting another layer of (untested) electromagnetic radiation on the general public and wildlife? If every Internet user, legislator and provider reviewed 5G’s impacts with due diligence, could 5G private infrastructures be limited to industries that truly could benefit from it?”
PS by DL – I personally admit that I have been duped by some of the 5G claims of telecoms.