May 27, 2020 Alan Kepper

And what do you burn, apart from witches? 5G cell towers?

Yes, that title is a reference to Monty Python applied to the modern day witch hunters, otherwise known as 5G conspiracy theorists. 

I have been reading and watching worrisome stories about 5G with increasing frequency (pardon the pun).  The stories are about conspiracy believers and others anxious about the technology.  There was one story where people tried to burn down a mobile phone tower.  After that, I wonder if they missed their phones not working?

It is becoming so widely reported that we (Laminar) are being asked more and more about radio or electromagnetic energy exposure.  I wrote an article several years ago about this to help people understand about WiFi technology, which was in the sights of conspirators then.

The article is still as relevant today and for the 5G system.

5G fundamentally is an improvement on how the current 4G/3G mobile phone technology operates.  It uses (primarily to start with) the same radio frequency spectrum and is limited to the same Radio Frequency safety standards.  The other fundamental differences are that the 5G system supports many more connected devices (billions) and its control is distributed (makes decisions near the edge of the network) rather than centralised (using virtualised computing infrastructure).

The new 5G technology is much faster especially when phones (or other devices) are close to the transceiver towers.  They need a high signal to noise ratio to enable higher modulation rates (number of bits transferred in every transmission or symbol).  5G can also use more frequency bands and support higher simultaneous data streams (MIMO).

5G, like many standards, specifies a superset of capabilities that are not necessarily implemented by equipment manufacturers or network operators.  As an example, WiFi4/5 supports up to 8×8 antenna and spacial streams, but most devices (phones and computers) only use 2×2 to save power.  The most we have seen from an WiFi5 AP to date is 4×4.  WiFi6 specifies Resource Unit (RU) management, but we have not seen that on any equipment yet.

The 5G standard specifies other frequency bands beyond the 800MHz-2GHz used by more traditional 3G/4G networks.  The frequencies bands vary in each country but 3.6GHz, 14GHz, and 26GHz bands are being explored.  I expect that we will see a move into the 3.6GHz band first.

From a radio frequency perspective, I see that WiFi and mobile phone technology (5G) are becoming very similar, so my original article will still be relevant. Please read the article below.