Health Questions About 5G Surface in US

Now that the FCC is fast-tracking 5G in the US, questions are being asked about health concerns.

Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

August 10, 2016

2 Min Read
Health Questions About 5G Surface in US

Health concerns about 5G networks are bubbling to the surface in the US now that the FCC has put the country on the fast track to a gigabit wireless future.

Light Reading first reported in May on researchers in New Zealand looking into health considerations because 5G will use new high-band millimeter wave radio technology and a lot more radios in the network to provide coverage. (See Could the 5G Future Pose a Health Risk? )

Now the Los Angeles Times is citing preliminary National Toxicology Program research "that showed small increases in tumors in male rats exposed to cellphone radiation," as a potential concern. Especially given that the move to 5G will "dramatically increase the number of transmitters sending signals to cellphones and a host of new Internet-enabled devices, including smart appliances and autonomous vehicles."

"I don't think it's clear that there are health risks, but it's also not clear that there are no health risks," the LA Times quoted Leeka Kheifets, an epidemiology professor at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health who has studied the health effects of cellphone use, saying.

At the moment it is simply not possible to accurately quantify how many more 5G radios will be needed to provide coverage in the US. We can, however, start to get an idea of the sort of range a 5G basestation might cover.

"Theoretically... a 1,000 meters or so between cellsites seems to be reasonable," Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) CEO Lowell McAdam said of its planned "Fiber wireless" fixed 5G pilot planned for 2017. (See Verizon Cleared for Take-Off on Fixed 5G.)

For all the latest news on 5G, visit the 5G site here on Light Reading.

This for delivering fixed broadband services into the home. So the useful distance between 5G cellsites is likely to decrease when delivering mobile 5G services to people on foot, in cars, or on trains.

Even so, just using the 1,000 meters -- or 1 kilometer -- estimate for spacing radios. The landmass of the United States is 9.857 million square kilometers. That's a lot of radios!

Clearly, its not going to happen like that. 5G will be offered in pockets in urban and suburban areas in the US to begin with. There's not going to be a massive rural 5G densification push; even connecting radios back to the Internet via fiber or microwave radios would be a huge challenge.

Still, with 5G arriving we can expect a lot more transmitters operating at 2.5GHz, 28GHz, 37GHz and 39GHz across major cities in the US in the near future. So, no doubt there will be plenty more reporting and research on this topic before commercial networks start to arrive in the US between 2018 and 2020.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Dan Jones

Mobile Editor

Dan is to hats what Will.I.Am is to ridiculous eyewear. Fedora, trilby, tam-o-shanter -- all have graced the Jones pate during his career as the go-to purveyor of mobile essentials.

But hey, Dan is so much more than 4G maps and state-of-the-art headgear. Before joining the Light Reading team in 2002 he was an award-winning cult hit on Broadway (with four 'Toni' awards, two 'Emma' gongs and a 'Brian' to his name) with his one-man show, "Dan Sings the Show Tunes."

His perfectly crafted blogs, falling under the "Jonestown" banner, have been compared to the works of Chekhov. But only by Dan.

He lives in Brooklyn with cats.

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