5G is clearly one of the hottest topics in the technology world today. There is a group that is excited about 5G as a next technology revolution, looking forward to what 5G will enable, the across business change that would be empowered by 5G, possibilities of 5G speed, and so forth. At the same time there is another school of thought which is raising questions around possible 5G impacts on society, impact on human health and if the energy waves needed in 5G technology are dangerous to humans, including conspiracy theories (5G causing COVID 19), etc. Let’s take a closer look at this…..
Self-propelled vehicles, far off medical procedure from 1000’s of miles away, augmented experience, capacity to be available at different spots at same time (basically as 3D picture/live holographic call) – all especially would have seemed like a Sci-fi film plot, at least a few years ago. Be that as it may – the up and coming age of telecom standard “5G”, vows to make this a reality and in certainty much more!
5G is not just going to be about connectivity speeds (or shall I say unprecedented connectivity speeds). It would also enable higher processing ability, increased reliability and very low latency, which would enable next wave of services as well as economic transformation.
So, what is 5G?
5G is the 5th generation of mobile network. It is the next evolution of global wireless standard following 4G networks. 5G enables a new kind of network that is designed to bring connected world into reality – connecting virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices.
Let’s quantify this a little:
- Download speed up to 1,000 times faster than 4G
- Latency around 1 millisecond, (vs of 4G which is 50-100 milliseconds)
- Step change in capacity with direct positive impact in reduction of cost per megabit
- Capability to support millions of connects per square kilometer
- Reliability of service enhancements
Also, if we look at the use cases that 5G would enable, this should make life in the connected world faster, easier and with significantly improved customer experience. Going back to my earlier point, if we look at the use cases that 5G would enable, it would make life a real sci-fi.
Source: GSMA Intelligence
As anyone would relate – this is a major improvement, but the question is as an industry are we ready to deliver against this commitment.
How will 5G technology enable this ?
To answer that question, we first need to understand that 5G is not a technology, it’s a whole value chain of technologies which must be turned into service, which can then be packed to deliver the transformed “connected world” experience 5G is committing to. Also, there is a critical social aspect, which also would need to be dealt with.
This readiness would need to take into consideration critical factors like:
- Deployment across the three frequency bands provided as part of the standard which is currently going in gradual phase wise manner. However, there is considerable investment and legwork that would be required to lay this new infrastructure foundation that would be pivotal for 5G.
According to Heavy Reading’s report Heavy reading Mobile Operator 5G Capex), total global spending on 5G is set to reach $88 billion by 2023.
Now if we take the current macro-economic situation in consideration and specifically the impact of COVID there is some immediate disruption and increased cost pressure. While the 5G business case might still stand it would require operators to prioritize on : optimizing 5G deployments and network cost, focusing on ROI of investments already done and may be relooking some of the use cases (in those focusing on using 5G for cost efficiencies)
- The service propositions and business model of 5G would require operators relook their underlying BSS/OSS systems. With many operators still working with legacy BSS/OSS systems, failure to be ready with these changes in the underlying IT (BSS/OSS systems) could in fact jeopardize the business case and pose risks to potential revenue. Mitigation would be a complete architectural relook to enable open, flexible, and scalable systems.
Also, device readiness – because of the common customer the question is if their iPhone, Samsung or other devices will support 5G!
- Getting the end customer onboarded: While on one side there is technology related planning that is happening to enable 5G delivery against the hype, I think it’s still easier to manage in comparison to the “social challenge” to onboard many groups who believe 5G would have impact on human health.
Whether it be generic theories around 5G radiation poisoning or specific claims around 5G causing COVID 19, there is a need to answer the question.
Is 5G hazardous to your health?
As per WHO – “To date, and after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies. Health-related conclusions are drawn from studies performed across the entire radio spectrum but, so far, only a few studies have been carried out at the frequencies to be used by 5G”*
To alleviate the concerns further, WHO is conducting a health risk assessment from exposure to radiofrequencies, covering the entire radiofrequency range, including 5G, which would be published by 2022
The bigger concern however is of conspiracy theory linking pandemics like COVID 19 to 5G network. While there is no scientific evidence to support it yet, the misinformation has spread like a virus which has also led to dozens of instances of vandalism, arson attacks damaging cell towers, disruption of network maintenance activities across UK and Europe. In UK itself, more than 50 towers of major regional telco’s were vandalised , driven by fraudulent conspiracy theory that 5G connectivity is the cause of coronavirus. This was even after when industry associations and organisations like GSMA and Mobile UK confirmed that these conspiracy theories are baseless and are not grounded in credible scientific evidences.
This essentially takes 5G out of technology realm, making the success of 5G dependent on broader social outlook and expanding the onus on government and health organizations to prioritize related researches so to address and alleviate the health concerns. In the meanwhile, it also puts responsibilities on end customers (at least on the socially responsible ones) to be careful on what we believe and spread from social media, the negative impact of which can be much bigger.
Abhishek Soni is global account executive in TMTS sector of Capgemini UK, managing a portfolio of account. Abhi has more than 13 years of experience in Telecommunication industry across various roles ranging from delivery, solutions, consulting and account management.