Could the 5G Future Pose a Health Risk?

Dan Jones
5/12/2016
50%
50%

Super-fast 5G wireless is still years away from widespread commercial service but researchers are already wondering if the new networks -- which will feature many more radios than previous cellular architectures deployed very densely in towns and cities -- could pose a health risk to the general public.

Massey University in New Zealand has announced this week that it got funding to investigate if there will be any adverse effects of electromagnetic radiation to human health caused by the next generation of telecommunication networks called 5G. The research will take place through 2017.

5G -- Fifth Generation -- wireless is expected to be tens or even hundreds of times faster than 4G, downloading a movie over the network in mere seconds. To achieve that speed -- and provide exciting new applications on future networks -- 5G will use higher frequencies and be deployed more densely than previous cellular networks, which have largely been determined to be safe for us puny humans, ever have before. (See 5G: What Is It & Why Does It Matter? and 5G: As Close as You'll Get to a Jet Pack!.)

"With some industry giants predicting 50 billion connected devices by 2020 and with the employment of much higher transmission frequencies proposed for the 5G rollout, it is essential to determine how the future of telecommunications will affect the health of its users," principal investigator Dr. Faraz Hasan says in the announcement.

Hasan is talking about centimeter and millimeter waves, which have previously only been used in very limited short-range fixed wireless and mobile backhaul applications. It is anticipated with the coming of 5G, frequencies like 15GHz, 28GHz, 39GHz and 60GHz could be put into widespread usage, and these short-range, high-speed signals would require thousands (maybe millions) more radios and antennas to be dotted round the cityscape. 4G networks today are typically built around low- and medium-band radio spectrum (600MHz to 2.5GHz in the US) and a backbone of cell towers with some distributed antennas and smaller radios to extend coverage. (See Sprint: We're Building a 5G-Ready Network, Not a 4G Relic.)

Operators, researchers and vendors are now turning that model of deployment on its head with plans that will mix some large towers with many, many more small radios using higher frequencies than ever before. So, naturally, health concerns about incredibly dense radio network networks in urban environments are starting to bubble to the surface. (See Sprint's Saw: '5G' Opp Is Moving Signal Closer to Customers.)

There's a further wrinkle to the 5G radios that it is not even clear from the announcement whether this research will grapple with or not. The FCC, for instance, keeps very tight limits on the antenna power limits allowed for different fixed and mobile applications. Carriers in the US, however, are starting to ask the agency if they can increase the amount of Effective Isotropic Radiated Power (EIRP) -- that's peak antenna gain -- used for millimetre wave applications.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) said this in a filing to the FCC in January this year.

    'Conventional' base station antenna gains for other mobile uses typically have gains in the 9–25dBi range because they are limited by practical antenna size. In mmW bands, however, gains from 20–45 dBi can be achieved depending upon beamwidths desired. A base station power limit of between 68 and 75 dBm EIRP is thus more appropriate for these higher frequency bands than the 62 dBm EIRP maximum proposed based on the properties of other spectrum.

So there you go, gentle reader, we don't think you'll be accidentally sterilized by the super-high power radio waves of the 5G future but we don't yet fully know what effect incredibly dense mmWave radio networks pumping out really hot signals might have!

Maybe don't throw out that tin foil hat just yet.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

(20)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
<<   <   Page 2 / 2
t.bogataj
50%
50%
t.bogataj,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/17/2016 | 4:28:44 AM
Re: "Although we are constantly exploring the subject, currently there is no direct evidence that links cellphone usage to brain cancer."
TV Monitor,

you must be either consciously lying, or are a total technical ignorant. Or both.

"There is nothing to worry because mmWave would bounce off your body instead of penetrating it like low-frequency waves. mmWave is not a penetrating wave like low frequency waves."

The shorter the wavelength, the more radiation will absorb in a body. Anyone with only basic knowledge will know that penetration depth is roughly proportional to sqrt(lambda). With extremely short wavelengths, practically all radiation will absorb in (the surface of) the body. No "bouncing" off.

"Beside, you can literally feel the heat on the hand that's holding the phone if the mmWave is too intense."

Exactly -- which confirms absorption an says that you lied in the first paragraph.

T.

PS. @Dan, grey on grey is still annoying.
TV Monitor
0%
100%
TV Monitor,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/13/2016 | 6:46:42 PM
Re: "Although we are constantly exploring the subject, currently there is no direct evidence that links cellphone usage to brain cancer."
DISH wants to service 5G in its 12.2~12.7 Ghz spectrum.

http://www.fiercewireless.com/tech/story/dish-partners-mvdds-coalition-petition-get-122-127-ghz-band-5g-realm/2016-05-11

 
TV Monitor
0%
100%
TV Monitor,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/12/2016 | 12:49:31 PM
Re: "Although we are constantly exploring the subject, currently there is no direct evidence that links cellphone usage to brain cancer."
mendyk

"at best. More likely it's a nice money grab for the university."

Exactly. You shouldn't be concerned if you understand how the likely mmwave 5G format war winner actually works. It's gunning for your phone's embedded antenna at a 1 inch accuracy at the cell edge.

On the other hand, something like 60 Ghz WiGig doesn't have this level of fine-grained beam focusing and antenna tracking functionality built into Samsung 5G, so that should give you a concern.
TV Monitor
0%
100%
TV Monitor,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/12/2016 | 12:46:36 PM
Re: "Although we are constantly exploring the subject, currently there is no direct evidence that links cellphone usage to brain cancer."
Dan Jones

mmWave system doesn't just emit signal to everywhere, its signals are highly focused and countinuously track the phone's antenna to 1 inch accuracy. This is why Samsung 5G can reach 2 km while more conventional Nokia and Ericsson mmWave efforts fall off at 100 meter range.

So no, Samsung's 5G base station's electrically steered antenna won't be blasting microwave beam at your head, it's specifically pin-pointing at your phone's antenna.
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/12/2016 | 12:44:15 PM
Re: "Although we are constantly exploring the subject, currently there is no direct evidence that links cellphone usage to brain cancer."
To pretend that a group of researchers could demonstrably prove or disprove a link between EMR associated with 5G and adverse health effects in a one-year lab study program is ... naive, at best. More likely it's a nice money grab for the university.
DanJones
50%
50%
DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
5/12/2016 | 11:55:23 AM
Re: "Although we are constantly exploring the subject, currently there is no direct evidence that links cellphone usage to brain cancer."
Phew! Well I guess we should just get that university to call off their study then! Total waste of time.
TV Monitor
0%
100%
TV Monitor,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/12/2016 | 11:45:56 AM
Re: "Although we are constantly exploring the subject, currently there is no direct evidence that links cellphone usage to brain cancer."
Dan Jones

There is nothing to worry because mmWave would bounce off your body instead of penetrating it like low-frequency waves. mmWave is not a penetrating wave like low frequency waves.

Beside, you can literally feel the heat on the hand that's holding the phone if the mmWave is too intense.

"networks have never been deployed as densely as 5G is anticipated to be."

Well, you are going to find out for yourself in about 20 months, when visiting world press get to test out 28 Ghz 5G Galaxy phones loaned out by Samsung at the Pyeongchang Olympics. That's the real 5G phone operating on a real 5G network.
DanJones
50%
50%
DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
5/12/2016 | 10:59:47 AM
Re: "Although we are constantly exploring the subject, currently there is no direct evidence that links cellphone usage to brain cancer."
Well we're going into uncharted territory with 5G, networks have never been deployed as densely as 5G is anticipated to be.
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/12/2016 | 10:58:29 AM
Re: "Although we are constantly exploring the subject, currently there is no direct evidence that links cellphone usage to brain cancer."
Evidence comes from demographic studies, rather than physical experimentation and observation. In the past, possible links between cell-phone use and cancer -- specifically brain cancer -- focused on the radiation emitted by the handheld device because of its proximity to the brain. As far as more generic environmental consequences go, we'll probably start learning about those 20 or more years after this stuff is in place, at which point at least some of us will be safely dead.
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/12/2016 | 8:33:46 AM
"Although we are constantly exploring the subject, currently there is no direct evidence that links cellphone usage to brain cancer."
We already know that some people are more sensitive than others are and have health issues in proximity to Wi-Fi and cellular signals, so this piece is very timely and brings up an issue that not many of us think of as the future relentlessly marches forward.

Reminds me of the final scene of Thank You for Smoking...
<<   <   Page 2 / 2