RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - As more and more devices become wireless, the push is on to provide networks on which they can quickly operate.
That’s why the industry is now laying the groundwork for the 5th generation network — called 5G as it’s more commonly known.
But, some are concerned about technology and the need for millions more 5G receiver/transmitters has reignited the debate over the safety of radio frequency radiation, which has caused organizations like the American Cancer Society to weigh in.
The 5G network will offer faster speeds for data and streaming but the way that technology will get to us has some worried about potential health concerns.
Right now, the industry is spending over $56 billion to create the network that will be at least 10 times faster than current 4-G and work on all kinds of wireless devices including appliances and self-driving cars.
Right now, 5G deployment is limited to test areas.
The new 5G network uses high-frequency waves to support faster speeds, but those signals don't travel as far as current wireless frequencies.
They also are more susceptible to blocking by buildings and other solid obstructions. So, to combat that, the 5G network will rely on "small cell" sites that are much closer together instead of using large cell phone towers spread apart.
Because the 5G signals don’t travel as far, that means 5G sites will be almost as ubiquitous as utility poles and with all those transmitters spewing radio frequencies, some are worried about the health effects.
Scientists are now racing to determine if 5G tech is dangerous.
At the moment, the government says research into health effects of radiation has been inconsistent.
According to the National Cancer Institute, "a limited number of studies have shown some evidence of statistical association of cellphone use and brain tumor risks, but most studies have found no association.”
The National Toxicology Program is now doing research into cell phone radiation. It’s released draft conclusions for two technical reports, one was for rat studies. There is also a report about mouse studies on radio frequency radiation.
To conduct the studies, The National Toxicology Program built special chambers that exposed rats and mice to different levels of radio frequency radiation for up to two years.
Exposure levels ranged from 1.5 to 6 watts per kilogram (W/kg) in rats, and 2.5 to 10 W/kg in mice.
The low power level for rats was equal to the highest level permitted for local tissue exposures to cellphone emissions today.
The animals were exposed for 10 minute on, 10 minute off increments, totaling just over nine hours each day.
The studies used 2G and 3G frequencies and modulations still used in voice calls and texting in the United States.
It did not use the frequencies used by 4G, 4G-LTE, and 5G networks for streaming video and downloading attachments because those systems use different cellphone signal frequencies and modulations.
As that research continues, the availability of 5G wireless devices is still a year or two away.
And because 5G signals aren’t as effective — cellphones are likely to get larger to hold the antennas necessary to make them work.
Some experts say some cellphones might even have an antenna stub sticking out of them — like those seen in the 1980s -- in order to make the 5G devices work effectively.
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