5G is the newest generation of wireless technology used for cellular networks. It was deployed in 2019 and reached South Africa in September 2019. It promises to be ten times faster than the current 4G being used by cell phone networks, as reported by Business Insider South Africa.When news of the new high-frequency wireless technology was initially announced, research articles were published stating that these high frequency waves can potentially have serious health implications. One article, “Towards 5G communication systems: Are there health implications?” by Agostino Di Ciaula, discussed how higher frequency emissions penetrate the human skin, and unlike 4G and its predecessors, it could break down DNA and cause cancer. Another article that deals with this issue is “The human skin as a sub-THz receiver – Does 5G pose a danger to it or not?” written by Paul Ben Ishai, from Ariel University, Noa Betzalel and Yuri Feldman from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This article states that the human sweat duct can act like an antenna and absorb high frequency waves. They were especially concerned with the 5G waves, which have operations above 24 gigahertz (GHz). Interestingly, this article was published on 22 February 2018, before the deployment of 5G.
“5G is the newest generation of wireless technology used for cellular networks”
5G has since been declared safe by The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). In the article, “5G confirmed safe by radiation watchdog” on Theguardian.com, the ICNIRP chair, Dr Eric van Rongen stated that he is aware of the public’s concerns. Dr van Rongen explained that the guidelines used have been developed after thorough research, with the goal of providing protection against “scientifically substantiated adverse health effects” due to exposure to these electromagnetic fields. Since the deployment of 5G, many more articles have been submitted, claiming that the wireless technology is unsafe. However, no health complications that resulted from the use of this technology have been documented yet.
As of March, Rain is the only service provider in South Africa that offers 5G packages. According to their website, 5G coverage is still relatively low. With only certain areas of Gauteng having coverage. Rain offers two 5G packages, the first being a standard package with speeds of up to 30 megabytes per second (Mbps) and the second is a premium package with download speeds of up to 200 Mbps. Both packages are currently only available in Gauteng, as indicated on their official website. The price range for these packages start at R699 per month, with the premium package available at R999 per month. 5G is more expensive than its predecessors, but it comes with its advantages as well. Rain’s unlimited 4G package only reaches a speed of 10 Mbps, where the 5G package can reach 30 Mbps. Vodacom is next in line to launch its commercial 5G network, according to their official website, they shared that, “the Vodacom 5G technology is commercially-ready. What we need next is the spectrum and the first 5G capable mobile devices to become available.”
“It promises to be ten times faster than the current 4G being used by cell phone networks”
Another advantage of 5G is that it will allow interconnection with the Internet of Things (IoT). 5G will not only result in faster download speeds and higher quality streaming, it will potentially also impact online gameplay, artificial intelligence and the use of drones and autonomous cars. Darrell M West describes this as the world of 5G in his article, “How 5G technology enables the health internet of things”. West continues to explain how 5G can also open new possibilities for healthcare, especially when it comes to diagnostics and imaging. The reach of this impact in South Africa can only be determined once 5G has been fully deployed across the country.According to UP spokesperson, Rikus Delport, all universities are getting network connectivity from the South African Research Network (SANReN) through TENET. Delport told PDBY that UP will not be switching over to 5G but will continue to provide Wi-Fi to all students.
visual: Jonathan Oladeji