Technology never slows down. There’s always something new, something faster, cheaper, and better that’s being developed, and that’s true for 5G wireless too. This new technology boasts some very impressive capabilities such as very high speed – dramatically faster than what’s being used now.

But there’s a lot more than just speed that’s generating all the interest. As CNET explains this, “The combination of speed, responsiveness, and reach could unlock the full capabilities of other hot trends in technology, offering a boost to self-driving cars, drones, virtual reality, and the internet of things (IOT).” The bottom line: 5G could change our lives. But it also raises a question that begs to be answered: will it change our lives for the better?

The Good

Telecom companies are excited about this technology because growth in telephones is slowing and they need something new that will add zip to their sales and profits; 5G fits this profile.

“We are absolutely convinced that 5G is the next revolution” in this industry, Tim Baxter, president of Samsung’s US division said.

What impresses Baxter and many others about 5G are the benefits it brings to many applications. Here are a few of them:

*A virtual-reality headset and special glove will make it possible to control a robot arm that could perform surgery in another room. The glove, fitted with haptic feedback motors, would create the sensation of touch while the surgery is being performed. 

The haptic feedback used in 5G will also make it possible to transmit the sights, sounds, and feel of other experiences, according to CNET. For example, it could make a driver feel like he or she was going over the speed bumps or bumping into the cones on a road.

*It will enable cars to “talk” to other cars or to sensors built on the streetlights and gas stations around a city – an important development that will accelerate the introduction of self-driving cars. It will also make it possible to get precise control of drones, and to enable it to transmit high-definition video.

*It will even make it possible to “talk” with people or creatures in virtual worlds, a capability that could open amazing opportunities in film, communication, entertainment, and education, among other industries. Of course, the companies that develop, transmit, use, and sell this technology potentially stand to make fortunes, much more than they could from simple telephony.

The Bad

Every new system has to be perfected, and 5G technology is no different. For one, it requires a herculean effort to implement. It is also going to be pricey, and will take time until the kinks in the system will be completely ironed out and for it to function at the high standards users will expect. Also, security and privacy issues need to be resolved. But these are not the most important concerns.

And The Ugly

Despite all of its benefits, one aspect of 5G is scary. All cell towers emit radio frequency (RF) radiation – that’s what makes them function – but it’s also what makes them dangerous. Older technologies emitted lower amounts of radiation, but 5G is much more powerful and therefore will emit much more radiation than its predecessors did. In other words, they are more dangerous.

Major telecom companies have big plans for this technology: They want it to be used in every city all around the world. 5G cell towers are already being installed in many locations around the country.

According to Quora, “Soon every city will be retrofitted with this technology. Mini cell stations will be placed all throughout our neighborhoods and cities. They will be installed on the sides and atop buildings and on street light poles.”

That’s going to make our cell phones work much faster; for example, it will be possible to download a movie in a matter of seconds instead of the current six or seven minutes. And it will accelerate the introduction of new technologies and products now just being dreamed about.

Unfortunately, this may come at a high cost, according to Quora.

“5G cell towers are more dangerous than other cell towers for two main reasons. First, compared to earlier-generation cell towers, 5G is ultra-high frequency and ultra-high intensity. Second... with the current number of cell towers, the cell signal will not be reliable. To compensate, many more mini cell towers will have to be installed. It is estimated that a mini cell tower will have to be installed every two to eight houses, and that will greatly increase our exposure to RF radiation.”

In other words, these new towers will emit very high frequency radiation, there will be more of them, and they will be closer to us.

Home Sweet Home

Surprisingly, many of us already have mini cell towers right in our homes, only we call them by a different name: Wi-Fi routers. They emit radiation 24/7, emit as much as a cell tower, and their range includes an entire home. This means a 5G wi-fi router is like having a 5G mini cell tower inside your home.

It’s possible for a homeowner to protect him or herself by using a device called a Wi-Fi Router Guard. It’s said that these will block 90%-95% of the radiation emitted by routers. But the cell towers on roofs of apartment buildings and on the streetlights we pass as we walk down the block will not be covered by these. And many studies warn about the dangers these pose.

In Germany, researchers studied 1,000 residents who lived near cell phone towers for about 10 years. The researchers discovered that people living within 400 meters of them were diagnosed with cancer at a rate three times higher than those who lived much further away.

A study in England in 1994 found that people living on the top floor of buildings with cell phone masts had cancer rates 10 times the average in England. In Italy, a study made on 2,450 rats at the Ramazzini Institute raised concerns that simply living close to a cell tower poses threats to human health. Back in 2011, the World Health Organization classified RF radiation as a possible “carcinogenic.” Since then it seems the threat has increased.

It should be noted that the views expressed here are not the final word; according to some the concerns are exaggerated. One opinion is that negative information about 5G originates from RT, the website backed by the Russian government. It also should be added that this technology is rapidly being unrolled in Russia.

Is this technology safe? We’ll let the experts answer that. But studies done in many countries over many years have raised serious questions. With the clear whiff of smoke in the air, who wouldn’t worry?


Gerald Harris is a financial and feature writer. Gerald can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.