Before getting the answer to the question of how 5 G is harmful to the environment, let us first know about the 5G technology. The fifth generation of mobile technology is referred to as 5G. The internet is expected to become much faster with 5G. To put this in numbers, it will become 1000x faster than the current 4G. They will have a 100 GB per second bandwidth. Current gadgets do not occupy the frequency used by 5G. There are significant interferences because 3G and 4G share the same frequency. Furthermore, unlike 4G towers, 5G antennas are directional, resulting in fewer interferences.
To send data, all wireless devices utilize electromagnetic spectrum radio waves. WiFi routers, for example, use a spectrum of frequencies ranging from 900 MHz to 60 GHz. The higher the frequency, the better. The sub-6 GHz frequency spectrum, which spans 700 MHz to 2.7GHz, is used by 4G and LTE. Users can expect faster speeds and more capacity with 5G than they can with 4G or LTE.
The millimeter wave (mm-Wave) spectrum, which covers a range of high frequencies between 24.25 GHz and upwards, is used in the 5G infrastructure. The mmWave frequencies have never been utilized for communication previously, and 5G standards like IMT-2020 define how they should be used. Cell towers and tiny cells, which transport data and emit these frequencies, are examples of 5G base stations. Mobile broadband infrastructure will support decarbonization efforts in the energy, industry, and transportation sectors by enabling:
• Remote intelligence facilitated by cellular connectivity
• New ecosystems and platforms are driven by rapid change
• New business models from the bottom to the top
The fifth generation of telecommunications technologies, 5G, is critical to fulfilling the goal of providing uninterrupted fifth-generation wireless connections to all urban areas, railways, and key roadways. This can only be accomplished by building a dense network of antennae and transmitters. To put it another way, the number of higher frequency base stations and other devices will skyrocket. This raises the question of whether higher frequencies and billions of more connections will harm human health and the environment.
The rapid advancement of wireless communication technology and the pressing need to further it has resulted in greater public exposure to radio spectrum frequencies. The mountain grows in terms of the harm produced by wireless technologies for the 2G, 3G, and 4G generations, culminating in the upcoming 5G technology. Only a new generation of communications, known as 5G, has evolved as a result of the increasing requirement for fast communications and large data packages. 5G boasts great speed and broadcasts in short waves and high frequency.
What can be the Positive Impacts of 5G on the Environment?
5G, like many other technological breakthroughs, can have both beneficial and harmful effects on the environment. Let’s begin with the bright side. 5G has the potential to cut energy use. A 5G network, combined with the Internet of Things (IoT), will allow devices to turn on and off automatically when used. Meanwhile, appliance sensors, transit networks, buildings, factories, street lights, and houses can track and assess their energy needs and consumption in real-time, allowing them to optimize their energy usage on the go.
5G networks will have an impact on the environment in a variety of ways, the most important of which can be the reduction in Greenhouse gas emissions. With the implementation of 5G networks all over the globe, video conferencing and other means of communication will become more smooth and real-time. And as we have already seen that COVID-19 forced big companies to implement their Work From Home(WFH) models. This helped reduce the overall carbon footprint as there was less energy consumption from the office spaces, and fewer vehicles were used for transportation. Same way, 5G can help in less use of energy sources and less automobile pollution as we can have real-time meetings on Zoom and other platforms while sitting on the couch of our homes.
Apart from this, 5G can benefit the environment through the automotive sector also. On a 5G network, sensors and cameras can use real-time data to keep traffic moving and modify stop signals to avoid delays. Reduced traffic congestion and idling will reduce fuel consumption and vehicle emissions.
How Can 5G Be Harmful to the Environment?
There is a disadvantage to many new technologies. And 5G is no different. Despite the fact that a number of approaches for 5G to save energy have already been discussed, it is possible that it will result in increased energy consumption and emissions. According to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, information and communications technology currently account for around 4% of world electricity consumption and 1.4 percent of global carbon emissions. Meanwhile, by 2030, the number of IoT devices on the planet might reach 125 billion. By 2040, if those projections are true, information technology will account for 20% of global electricity consumption and contribute 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is for this reason that any system installed must be energy efficient. If not, 5G will cause more harm than good to the ecosystem.
5G will use short wave, short wavelengths, i.e. high frequency. And though radiations emitted by 5G is non-ionizing, it cannot separate electrons from atoms as it does have enough energy to break chemical bonds. Therefore human DNA cannot be affected by 5G radiations, but still, some experts believe that even non-ionizing electromagnetic fields also might cause harm.
Although 5G technology has many unimagined uses and benefits, it is becoming increasingly evident that widespread adoption could substantially affect human health and ecosystems. The wavelengths of current radiofrequency radiation to which humans are exposed appear to operate as a poison to biological systems. These radiations have been classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and a study conducted by the United States National Toxicology Program (NTP) found clear evidence that cell phone non-ionizing radiofrequency radiation increased cancer and damaged DNA in rats and mice.
Dr. Martin Pall, a biochemistry professor at Washington State University, discussed in his letter the harmful biological effects of 5G. He also states that the FCC guidelines on 5G are obsolete, inadequate, and favor the telecommunications industry. Dr. Martin also believes that 5G implementation can have major long-term ill effects such as skin cancers, blindness, male infertility, hearing loss, and thyroid issues.
But keeping aside all these points, FCC’s approach is very positive towards deploying 5G technology at the earliest. In fact, the organization is making legislation that will stop local governments from restricting the deployment of 5G. So to conclude, is 5G harmful to the environment? It is still debatable as of now. Experts and researchers have also suggested that there has to be unbiased and open research on this topic to have conclusive evidence.
Dr. Emily Greenfield is a highly accomplished environmentalist with over 30 years of experience in writing, reviewing, and publishing content on various environmental topics. Hailing from the United States, she has dedicated her career to raising awareness about environmental issues and promoting sustainable practices.