AT&T adding faster 5G service to Raleigh, Charlotte

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - Our need for internet speed seems to grow with each new device we get, but the networks that supply our connections are lagging.

That’s why service providers are working on the next generation of wireless networks  - called 5G.

Now, we’ve learned 5G is coming to Raleigh.

In a surprise move, AT&T says Raleigh and Charlotte will be added to a list of cities nationwide that will see 5G service before the end of the year. 

5G, or fifth-generation wireless, is 10 to 20 times faster than the current 4G network, but it works in a different way.

The 5G system uses high frequency waves, but those signals don’t travel as far as current wireless frequencies and are more easily blocked by structures.

So, to combat that, 5G needs many, many more transceivers.

Instead of relying on larger cell phone towers spread far apart, 5G networks require small cell sites which are closer together meaning they’ll be as common as utility poles are now.

With all those transceivers everywhere, some researchers are worried about the effects of those radio frequencies.

Last March, researchers spent three days In Durham at the Conference at the National Institute Of Environmental Health Sciences talking about radio frequencies.

The researchers said they found clear evidence that phone radiation caused tumors in the hearts of rats, similar to the kinds of tumors found in humans.

“While a given animal is not making a cell phone call, they are, throughout their short two-year lifetime getting the same exposure that we expect people to get in their 70-plus years of life,” said Dr. Devra Davis of the  Environmental Health Trust.

Those studies continue and you can read more about them here.

But not every cellphone user is worried.

“We need the technology and we need the speed as well,’’ said Takara Elliot.

“I wouldn’t be worried about that.” Said cell phone user Allison Fluitt . “I’m sure they’ve done it in many other large cities and I know other countries like South Korea are a lot more technologically advanced that we are—so no—it doesn’t really bother me.”

Proponents of 5G say it do more than give your mobile devices faster speed.

It will connect billions of devices on the “internet of things” including smart cars, your home and all of its appliances.

5G will allow remotely operated medical devices so that sophisticated surgeries can be performed far away from medical centers.

It will also allow for the creation of smart power grids and apps we haven’t even imagined yet.

AT&T will be the first carrier to provide 5-G services in Raleigh saying the city was added because of all the innovation and research that happens around here.

But in an email, the company told CBS 17 consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia  it’s not getting into the specifics of its network right now, it’s impossible to say how much of this area will be included in AT&T’s new 5G network.

Even after 5G rolls out, those big cell phone towers aren’t going to disappear anytime soon because there’s still a lot of 4G units out here that will need to keep connected.

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