Questions to the fifth Generation of mobile communications (5G)
As many questions are posed to us with regard to this at times rather controversial topic, we like to take a public position here.
Question: Up to now we could use speech services as well as exchange data over the mobile networks. Mobile communication by speech works since the D net, nowadays we can stream HD quality movies in every subway. Why are faster and faster connections needed? What is the user’s benefit of the 5G revolution, how do they notice a difference?
Answer: 5G promises data rates in the order of 10Gbit/s and offers high quality video services in real-time, for example video goggles for virtual reality. Also 5G offers a low and well defined latency time and allows thus the first time for real-time applications over the air; for example for automatized street traffic or the control and regulation of production processes. In further applications 5G promises to connect a multitude of sensors with very low energy consumption.
Question: There are no scientific studies that can prove a health endangerment of 2G,3G or 4G wireless networks. How is the situation for 5G? What has been tested?
Answer: Indeed we do not know of any new health risks. However, we are engineers and not medical doctors, thus, we are not the right people to ask for. We have to trust the statements of the world health organization (WHO), who categorizes mobile communications with sufficiently low transmit power on the same level as drinking coffee.
A health evaluation is essentially difficult as naturally there are many fears within the population when new technologies are to be introduced. This was the case when the first vapor engine was introduces and it has not changed until today with the introduction of the newest mobile communications standard. It is already very difficult to prove if a damage occurs, it is impossible to prove that no damage exists. One can only observe that so far no damage has been reported and that no scientifically sound explanation is available that would give reason for concern. We know the never ending debate about which nutrition is healthy for us and which not. The situation is very similar.
Question: How to explain to a layman: „frequencies above 6GHZ“, why do we need more bases stations? Are there more connections at the same time, overloads on networks reduced?
Answer: Physically speaking, higher frequencies come with higher attenuations in free space connections. At the same transmit power level we can transmit less far with higher frequencies than with lower (assuming equal conditions). Limiting the maximal transmit power thus requires to minimize the distance between base station and mobile user. Therefore, the higher the frequencies, the closer get the base stations.
A 5G base station is however, very flexible and can be configured in a multiple of ways. It is thus possible in 5G to introduce a virtual antenna shape similar to a light beam in which the desired energy is only being transported into a desired direction. By using such technique one can achieve large distances even with low transmit power. How a 5G is being operated is in the hands of the service provider and their business models. They can choose between a high quality roll out of the net-infrastructure with many densely populated base stations achieving high data rate, good coverage at low transmit power or to design a rollout with few base stations that cover larger areas to minimize cost for the users.
Question: How secure are such nets, when they will be part of our life in future. Will it be easier or harder in 5G to hack the net or even to paralyze it? Does the software at every base stations and user need to be permanently renewed (as we have it for PCs and laptops)? Who checks on usage and content of the updates? Do you see any danger (roughly speaking: when foreign powers are not in good terms with us?)
Answer: Mobile communication networks have been safe for a long time. That my neighbor can tap into my connection and or receive my data is since 3G practically impossible. The state of justice comprises of well-defined legal means to survey the mobile communication nets. (key words: Data retention, judicial decision) Foreign countries with unlimited financial means have other options to gather data of large amounts in an uncontrolled way. Depending on the telecommunications service and application a matching encryption is employed to guarantee privacy and security. Longer keys mean larger security due to higher computational complexity.
Question: Do you foresee other aspects that are not noticed sufficiently?
Answer: The 5G technology will offer us high quality services such as HD TV everywhere next to the potential to live with low transmit powers. But other areas besides consumption will also profit. For example, 5G will cause road traffic becomes more fluid, cleaner and safer both in the city and in the country. So far, cars only communicate with each other via the horn, brake lights and the turn signals. Thanks to reliable digital networking of road traffic with low latency, it is now possible for the first time that neighboring vehicles coordinate with each other and with oncoming traffic and thus coordinate an overtaking maneuver to avoid many accidents. This has great potential to significantly and sustainably improve our daily lives.