“5G will have an impact similar to the introduction of electricity or the car, affecting entire economies and benefitting entire societies.”- Steve Mollenkopf
We are always in a search to discover new avenues for human development. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), development is a process of enlarging people’s choices, increasing their opportunities for education, healthcare, income and employment and covering the full range of human choices from a sound physical environment to economic and political freedoms.
The telecommunication sector embodies the urgency placed on development, in order to enhance how and the speed at which we communicate with each other, as well as how artificial intelligence communicates. Many of us cannot imagine a world without us having our cellular phones, tablets, laptops and other devices which keep us connected. The world for the most part is currently using 4G technology; however, there are a few countries of which China is included which have rolled out 5G technology. Interestingly, this 5G technology has also fuelled conspiracy theories and backlash worldwide in an age of coronavirus.
What is 5G technology?
The journey to 5G technology started from 1G. In 1G technology, only calls were possible, then 2G came into picture offering compatibility with both messaging and calling. When 3G technology became available, it became possible to browse the internet and go online. The arrival and implementation of 4G and 4G LTE technology, literally, was responsible for high-speed internet services. There are those who give the example of a knife cutting into butter to highlight the amazing speed of the internet currently. This has made downloading and uploading information remarkably fast.
As human beings we are always in search of better and this led to the birth of 5G technology. Wahas Ali Mughal in an article dated September 27, 2019, said, “The ultimate truth is that researchers don’t know actually what 5G technology is because this technology is still under development. However, it will be implemented by 2020 by many countries including the United States, China, India, Turkey, UAE, Ireland, Poland and Japan. 5G will be able to handle 1, 000 times more traffic and will be ten times faster than 4G LTE. It will download HD videos in less than a second.”
Another online source states that 5G technology has been designed to meet the very large demand for data and connectivity of today’s modern society and the Internet of Things (IoT) with billions of connected devices and tomorrow’s innovations. In addition to faster connections and greater capacity, an important advantage of 5G is the fast response time referred to as latency. Latency is the time taken for devices to respond to each other over the wireless network. 3G networks had an average response time of 100 milliseconds, while the current 4G is averaging at 30 milliseconds. Amazingly, 5G will be as low as 1 millisecond. It is said that 5G technology will enable instantaneous connectivity to billions of devices. We are certainly moving towards new frontiers in connectivity. Undoubtedly, 5G will change our world forever.
The three major categories for use of 5G are:
· Machine-to-Machine Communications also called the Internet of Things, which involves connecting billions of devices without human intervention. This has the potential to revolutionize modern industrial processes and applications including agriculture, manufacturing and business communications.
· Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications which will see more vehicle-to-vehicle communication as well as industrial robotics communication and autonomous driving. This category will also see more remote medical care, procedures and treatments being offered.
· Enhanced Mobile Broadband which will provide significantly faster data speed and greater capacity to keep the world connected. This will include wireless internet access to all; even outdoor broadcasts will not require broadcast vans. This will lead to smart cities, smart schools, smart homes and safer vehicles. It is also hoped that enhanced healthcare and education will be features of 5G expansion.
What about the very poor in the society? There are many families earning less than US$1 per day. How will they be impacted by this technology?
Resistance to 5G technology
Engineers working on key broadband infrastructure in the United Kingdom have been verbally and physically abused. The Liverpool Echo stated that a 5G tower was reportedly attacked and set on fire by anti 5G protestors near the M57 motorway in Liverpool. This is just the latest in a string of incidents. Video footage of a telephone mast on fire in Birmingham on April 2 has also circulated widely alongside claims it was targeted by anti-5G protesters. In some sections of the United Kingdom, engineers suspected of having an association with 5G towers have been abused in the streets.
Mobile UK, an industry lobby group, says the incidents are affecting efforts to keep the networks that support home working and provide the country with critical connections that allow emergency services, hospitals and businesses to keep running. Telecoms engineers are designated key workers in the government’s coronavirus continuity planning. Anti 5G demonstrations have gained momentum and have spread as far as Australia. Among the primary concerns are that the higher frequency waves will lead to memory loss, miscarriages, asthma, autism, ADHD and an increase in cancers due to radiation.
Some countries such as Belgium have stopped 5G trials in their respective borders. The discussion regarding 5G technology in Jamaica is in its infancy stage.
In February there was a public forum hosted by the Mona School of Business at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies. At the forum, Rohan Pottinger, Chief Executive Officer at Digicel Jamaica said, “For us to get the speeds possible with 5G, we need to be able to create connections back to the main system which connects the world. Currently, Digicel and Flow are the only providers with the largest bandwidth, but much more is needed.”
He noted that currently there were challenges in the building of new transmitter towers, due to legislation. According to him, the launch of 5G networks in Jamaica would require more than triple the number of towers now installed. “Government involvement is, therefore, crucial to the roll-out of 5G in Jamaica. So, legislation allowing for the erection of towers and funding would aid the process. The veil of secrecy associated with 5G has led many to question whether the #coronavirus is manmade.
One click away
Our lives will be changed forever with 5G technology. The world is a global village, and this concept is being revealed right before our eyes with 5G technology.
Huawei, a leading Chinese global provider of information and communication technology, has been barred from operating in some countries due to the fear that all data will be sent to China. Many countries, including the US, view Huawei as a national security risk. The fear in some quarters is that China will take over the world using 5G. Huawei has been banned in some countries or has been given limited access as in the case of the UK.
This uncertainty regarding 5G technology has fuelled conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories have been used from time immemorial to explain away events. In the past few weeks, many of us have been bombarded by numerous messages whether in the form of emails or WhatsApp text messages trying to make an association between the current pandemic #COVID19 and 5G technology. Many of these voice notes are rather detailed and lengthy as they try to persuade the wider public.
What we are sure about is that the novel coronavirus is here and many people are being impacted. Currently over 71, 000 deaths have been recorded globally and more than 1.3 million individuals have been infected by COVID-19, from Prime Ministers, to royalty, to celebrities, doctors, nurses to the average person.
We are living in interesting times. We all need to keep abreast of the changing times and what this will mean for us. Is 5G dangerous? Time alone has the answer. Lata!
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
#artificialintelligence #5GTechnology #pandemic #COVID19 #socialmedia #Huawei #development
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