Distilling the Mythical 5G And Covid-19
Technology in its core nature is dynamic and as it evolves the society develops. This tectonic change in technology transcends all sphere of human endeavor. The 20st Century ushered in unparalleled and renowned inventions in human history. Great inventions like the Airplane, Internet, Nuclear Power, Personal Computer, and Penicillin amongst others dazzled the society in their early days of discovery. By a mobile telephone call made on the sidewalks of New York, Martin Cooper revolutionized the wireless mobile communication industry in 1973.
In today’s world, mobile phone use is ubiquitous. As the fallacy revolving around 5G network spreads, it is important to set some parameters in order to understand this article. 5G and its predecessors are generations of mobile networks. A mobile phone uses a mobile network to serve its communication purposes; mobile devices emit radiofrequency energy – a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation. Coronavirus (also COVID-19) is a kind of common virus that causes an infection in your nose, sinuses, or upper throat. It is a respiratory tract infection which affects your upper respiratory tract (i.e. nose and throat) or lower respiratory tract (windpipe and lungs) and is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. While 5G may have been scheduled to be deployed in 2020, there is no verifiable scientific report or research indicating that 5G can spread COVID-19 amongst humans.
It is agreed that each technology comes with its own health risk and this mostly affect the users. For example, Portland physicians are increasingly seeing patients who exhibit signs of technology overuse, failing memory, depression and anxiety. It will be untrue to state that each of the mobile network generations does not convey its own health implications. Consumers have always been exposed to radio frequency in the range of 700 – 2700 MHz (mega hertz) range. However, 5G network will use higher frequencies in the range of 60,000 MHz – thereby exposing users to a much broad range of frequencies. There are ways a mobile phone user can limit exposure to cell phone radiation.
How did we get here?
The internet and social media have been saturated with rumors that 5G aids the spread of COVID-19. As earlier stated, there is no such truth evident in the widespread rumors.
Brief History of Mobile Network Generations – (0G, 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G AND 5G)
The need to improve and deliver a better-quality service over a mobile network drove the changes that occurred periodically. Each generation had its own standard of telecommunication hardware. For each mobile network generation, the International Telecommunication Union is the authority that set the standards. The G signifies generation. The pre-1G (or 0G) generation of mobile communication technology can be regarded as the radio telephone network. It was used as car phones in 1946 by Bell System which made use of Improved Mobile Telephone Service (IMTS), during the World War II for military use and in 1971 the Autoradiopuhelin (ARP) network was first operated in Finland as a public mobile phone network. It operated at 150 megahertz and calls were manually switched.
1G mobile network was launched by Nippon telephone and Telegraph Company (NTT) in Tokyo, Japan on December 1, 1979 while Motorola’s DynaTAC became the first mobile operator in the United States of America to use the 1G network after its approval. 1G enabled device operated on analogue cellular phones and only voice calls could be made and not text message. The drawbacks of 1G are; network unreliability, lack of encryption, radio interference from other users, prone to hacking, no compatibility between system, poor coverage and sound quality and no roaming support. The success and drawbacks of 1G paved way for the second generation –
In the 1990s, 2G or the second generation of mobile networks was launched under the Finland Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) standard. The first GSM call was made on July 1, 1991. This marked the beginning of the 2G era. The advantages of the 2G over 1G are – encryption of phone conversations; usage of less battery power; introduction of messaging services such as short message service (SMS) and multimedia messages (MMS); transfer speed of 9.6 kilobyte per second (Kbit/s) which were upgraded to 40 Kbit/s; and digital coding improved voice clarity and noise reduction.
The 2G network operated between 824 – 894 MHz frequency bands. Before the advent of the 3rd generation, 2.5G operated on General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) which provided data rates from 56 Kbit/s to 115 Kbit/s. It allowed access to World Wide Web (WWW), MMS and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). 2.75G operated on Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE) which was an extended version of GSM. It allowed data transmission up to 384 Kbit/s. The lack of interoperability between 2G networks, poor standardization and slow speed were some of the limitations of 2G. The third generation came with warm embrace by both individuals and businesses.
This was regarded as the packet-switching revolution and launched by NTT DoCoMo in 2001 while SK Telecom from South Korea followed suit in 2002. 3G had four standards such as UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunication System), CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access) 2000, HSPDA (High Speed Packet Data Access, and EVDO (Evolution, Data Optimized). Live streaming of radio services, video conferencing and voice over IP (such as Skype) all became possible over a 3G network. The advent of an iPhone was the hallmark of the 3G era in 2008. As lauded as the third generation is it had it own drawback as well such high power consumption, closely knitted base stations, and expensive procurement of spectrum license.
The fourth generation was first deployed in Stockholm, Sweden and Oslo in 2009. It is 10 times faster than 3G. The standards for 4G network are the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMax maintained by IEEE under the 802.16 designation. The introduction of 4G promised increased high-quality video streaming, Internet protocol (IP) based voice, data and gaming services. It worthy of mention that there is a transition from circuit switched network to packet data. Big names like Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile, Globacom, MTN, NTT DoMoCo, Nokia, Siemens, LG Electronics, and Ericsson are backing the 4G network through the provision of services to their consumers.
The fifth generation of wireless networks and technologies presents opportunity to transform connectivity. Improvements in bandwidth, latency, coverage, and security can enable an array of enhanced and new applications.
So, what exactly is 5G?
Micheal Wyde described 5G as the fifth generation of cell phone technology that promises higher data transfer, lower network lag, and increased network capacity compared with previous generations. 5G has been designed to meet the very large growth in data and connectivity of today’s modern society, the internet of things with billions of connected devices, and tomorrow’s innovations. 5G will operate in conjunction with existing 4G networks before evolving as a stand-alone network in subsequent releases and coverage expansions. 5G will deliver faster connections and greater capacity and low latency i.e. the amount of time taken for devices to respond to each other over the wireless network. 3G had a response time of 100 milliseconds, 4G about 30milliseconds and 5G less than 10 milliseconds. 5G has come as a herald of the future at this time to do achieve one purpose – to enable the instantaneous connectivity of billions of devices, the internet of things (IoT) and a truly connected world. Significantly, it should be added that 5G also aims to provide a ubiquitous connectivity.
Mobile Devices and Electromagnetic Radiation
As earlier alluded to, mobile devices emit radio frequency energy – a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation. Non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation is low frequency i.e. it uses low energy. It is pertinent to state that electromagnetic radiation is defined according to its wavelength and frequency, which is the number of cycles of a wave that pass a reference point per second. Mobile phones communicate by transmitting radio waves through a network of fixed antennas called base stations. The previous generation of mobile networks such as 2G and 3G operate at specific frequencies between 800 and 1,900 megahertz while 4G and 4G-LTE networks operate at 700 and 2,500 MHz.
Distinction Between a Virus and Bacteria
A virus is an infectious agent of small size and simple composition that can multiply only in living cells of animals, plants or bacteria. A virus is acellular i.e. it has no cell structure and requires a human host to survive. Bacteria (or bacterium) are any group of microscopic single-celled organisms that live in enormous numbers in almost every environment on Earth, from deep-sea vents to deep below Earth’s surface to the digestive tracts of humans. A bacterial infection is localized while a virus infection is systemic.
How Electromagnetic Radiation Transmit Bacteria
The transmission of bacteria by radio waves is a controversial area of science. However, Allan Widom at Northeastern University in Boston and colleagues discovered how this could be done. E. coli bacteria seem to be the culprit here. E. coli is a type of bacteria that lives in human intestines and also found in animals. E. coli bacteria infect humans in the following ways; ground meat, untreated milk, vegetables and fruit, water (containing E. coli) and animals.
How Does E. Coli Bacteria Communicate Via Electromagnetic Radiation?
E. coli might communicate “within a community” using similar radio waves to those in AM and FM radio transmissions. E. coli bacteria communicate using electromagnetic signals generated by electric transitions between energy levels describing the electrons moving around DNA loops. The electromagnetic signal between different bacteria within a community is a “wireless” version of intercellular communication found in bacterial communities connected by “nano wires”.
Logically, having stated that a virus requires a human host to survive and bacteria is everywhere and can be transmitted through electromagnetic radiation; it is sufficient to state that COVID-19 is a virus and not bacteria. 5G operates on a radio frequency using electromagnetic radiation. It is therefore safe to conclude that COVID-19 cannot be transmitted via electromagnetic radiation through which 5G operates.
There is no amount of scientific ingenuity and technological advancement that will be geared towards using a wireless network as a means to transmit a virus capable of infecting people. The vision for the advancement of technology is not to spread a disease through technology. There is no such vision. In the race for the development of a vaccine, technology will greatly be utilized to aid the process. While it is hoped that this article may further quell the rumors about the transmission of COVID-19 through 5G, it is expected that the reception of 5G will drive our current society towards the development of 6G that will usher in technologies such as holographic imaging, drone delivery and spatial recognition.
D.O. Odumosu is an Intellectual Property and Technology Law Attorney. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.