“It is becoming clear that 5G [fifth generation cellular technology] will cost much more to deploy than previous mobile technologies (perhaps three times as much) as it is more complex and requires a denser coverage of base stations to provide the expected capacity. The European Commission has estimated that it will cost €500 billion to meet its 2025 connectivity targets, which includes 5G coverage in all urban areas.
As 5G is driven by the telecoms supply industry, and its long tail of component manufacturers, a major campaign is under way to convince governments that the economy and jobs will be strongly stimulated by 5G deployment. However, we are yet to see significant “demand-pull” that could assure sales. These campaign efforts are also aimed at the MNOs [mobile network operators] but they have limited capacity to invest in the new technology and infrastructure as their returns from investment in 3G and 4G are still being recouped.
The notion of a “race” is part of the campaign but it is becoming clear that the technology will take much longer than earlier generations to perfect. China, for instance, sees 5G as at least a ten-year programme to become fully working and completely rolled out nationally. This is because the technologies involved with 5G are much more complex. One aspect, for example, that is not well understood today is the unpredictable propagation patterns that could result in unacceptable levels of human exposure to electromagnetic radiation.”
“Although lower frequencies, many in the UHF [ultra high frequency] range, are being proposed for the first phase of 5G networks, much higher radio frequencies are also projected in bands traditionally used for radars and microwave links. Whether this will transpire is still open to question. These frequencies are being commercially tested by some (e.g. by AT&T in the USA at 28 GHz [gigahertz]). The new bands are well above the UHF ranges, being either in centimetric (3-30 GHz) or in millimetric bands (30-300 GHz) and popularly branded “mmWave”, but present technical challenges that are expensive to solve.”
“Although many 5G networks currently being piloted will use the much lower bands, those upper frequencies being proposed for the future may offer propagation ranges only in the order of hundreds or even tens of metres. Higher frequency signals are also subject to more interference from weather – rain, snow, fog – and obstacles – wet foliage or buildings and their walls. This means that, at higher frequencies, indoor use may be problematic if based on through-wall or window penetration. Consequently, re-use of the existing UHF bands and also those just above in the 3-10 GHz range (“mid-range”) are emphasised today, to give 5G signals greater range with fewer technical challenges.”
“With higher frequencies and shortened ranges, base stations will be more closely packed into a given area to give complete coverage that avoids “not-spots”. Ranges of 20-150 metres may be typical, giving smaller coverage areas per “small cell”. A cell radius of 20 metres would imply about 800 base stations per square kilometre (or small area wireless access points (SAWAPs), the term used in the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC)). That contrasts with 3G and 4G which use large or “macro” cells. Traditionally they offer ranges of 2-15 km or more and so can cover a larger area but with fewer simultaneous users as they have fewer individual channels.”
5G Electromagnetic Radiation and Safety
“Significant concern is emerging over the possible impact on health and safety arising from potentially much higher exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation arising from 5G. Increased exposure may result not only from the use of much higher frequencies in 5G but also from the potential for the aggregation of different signals, their dynamic nature, and the complex interference effects that may result, especially in dense urban areas.
The 5G radio emission fields are quite different to those of previous generations because of their complex beamformed transmissions in both directions – from base station to handset and for the return. Although fields are highly focused by beams, they vary rapidly with time and movement and so are unpredictable, as the signal levels and patterns interact as a closed loop system. This has yet to be mapped reliably for real situations, outside the laboratory.
While the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) issues guidelines for limiting exposure to electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields (EMF), and EU member states are subject to Council Recommendation 1999/519/EC which follows ICNIRP guidelines, the problem is that currently it is not possible to accurately simulate or measure 5G emissions in the real world.”
“The USA is moving towards some form of rollout of mobile broadband as 5G but not necessarily in a holistic, well-orchestrated operation. It is more a set of ad hoc commercial manoeuvres. Some of these are simply rebranding existing LTE, rather than delivering novel networks. Re-use of the LTE spectrum in the UHF ranges (300 MHz to 3 GHz) is significant. The latter decision is probably warranted by its geography of large rural spaces and high density urban centres situated more on the coasts. Thus, the insistence for 5G on high centimetric bands (25–30 GHz and higher) is probably less justified than for the dense conurbations of Asia and the EU.
A significant challenge concerns the administrative local barriers to small cell rollout. The need for many small cells implies long delays and high costs. Local regulations continue to prevail despite the FCC’s mandate on a light-touch regime and minimal permit costs. This has led to a wide divide between local and central government on the principles of having to obtain permission for rollout and the charges for that. Local administrations, especially in the larger municipalities, are at loggerheads with the FCC (Zima, 2018). Several court challenges are being made to the FCC mandate of August 2018 that overrides local objections to a “one-touch” regime.”