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5G Concerns (9 Controversies Addressed)

5G Concerns (9 Controversies Addressed)

Posted by Greg Knell on 2nd Oct 2020

Quick summary of 5G concerns discussed:

  1. Will I have to get a new phone when 5G comes out?
  2. Will the iPhone 11 work with 5G?
  3. Will 5G make spying easier?
  4. Can 5G be weaponized?
  5. Will broadband be replaced by 5G?
  6. Will 5G make my phone faster no matter which one I have?
  7. Will I have to get an unlimited data plan to use 5G?
  8. Will video streaming be the highest quality all the time with 5G?
  9. Will 5G make reception available everywhere?

1. Will I have to get a new phone when 5G comes out?

You will need to have a 5G-compatible phone in order to access a 5G network. However, the presence of 5G cell towers and networks will enhance the speeds of 4G phones, no matter what.

5G concerns 01

5G technology is being built on top of the current 4G infrastructure. In other words, 4G is not being replaced by 5G. This new technology (5G) is simply piggybacking off of the existing one (4G). As 5G becomes more widely available, it will have a boosting effect on all phones still using 4G networks. But in order to gain full access to a 5G network, you’ll need a phone built with 5G compatibility. These phones are starting to enter the market already.

So if one of your 5G concerns is that you’ll be required to get a new phone right when your carrier rolls out 5G, we have good news. Current phones won’t become obsolete right away. Over time, probably. But not immediately.

2. Is the iPhone 11 5G-compatible?

No. But industry sources say that some or all upcoming iterations of the Phone 12 will be 5G-enabled.

5G concerns 02
iPhone 11

As of this writing, some phone makers have already released a 5G-enabled device. Apple is not yet one of them. But according to industry sources, they’ll soon join the ranks with the release of the iPhone 12.

The release date of the iPhone 12 has not yet been confirmed. Because of the economic lockdowns, Apple - and virtually every other business worldwide - has had to make significant changes. For Apple, postponing the release of its next iPhone model is one of those changes. In addition, Apple is being very meticulous about how they handle the 5G transition knowing that their past transition from 2G to 3G did not go well.

Also, it’s unlikely that Apple will release an iPhone 5G model unconnected with the iPhone 12 models.

3. Will 5G make spying easier?

Perhaps. But the evidence attempting to confirm this concern is weak.

5G concerns 03

5G concerns like this one are founded in a particular overseas controversy. Back in January, the British government announced that the Chinese tech giant Huawei would be allowed “a limited role” in designing and implementing the UK’s long-awaited 5G network. This sparked controversy due to the heavy-handed nature of China’s surveillance state. Some, including Pres. Trump, were very outspoken regarding the “threat to national security” that Huawei posed.

However, in July the British government reversed their decision, announcing that Huawei was “banned” from its 5G telecom network, despite the Chinese company having already made significant headway in developing the UK’s 5G infrastructure. This decision involves the removal of all Huawei equipment which is expected to “delay the rollout of 5G across the country by at least a year.”

So, as expected, this new decision by the British government has diminished a significant portion of those concerned with 5G’s influence on surveillance, espionage, and cyberattacks. In addition, part of the concern was that by putting the Chinese company in a position of power over the 5G network, it could shut down the hardware if it wanted to. Given the hyper-connected nature of the world that 5G aims to create, such an event would be catastrophic. So overall, the general worldwide consensus seems to be in support of the UK’s decision, favoring a healthier and safer telecom market with multiple vendors.

4. Can 5G be weaponized?

Theoretically, perhaps. In reality, no.

5G concerns 04

This controversy surfaced due to the nature of the millimeter and sub-millimeter waves employed by 5G technology. People with this concern often site a prototype device being developed by the US military. This device is designed for crowd control. Using millimeter waves, it sends out a beam that causes an unpleasant heating sensation on the skin's outer layer. Those behind its development say that the effects don’t hurt but cause a high enough level of discomfort that you’ll certainly want to get out of the way of the beam.

Yes, it’s true that 5G operates via millimeter waves. But the idea that 5G towers will somehow have the ability to zap you with radiation (or whatever is being envisioned by those with weaponizing concerns) is beyond the technology. Some might say, “It’s beyond the technology for now.” The thing is, with every technology that comes along, there’s always detractors that stir up controversy. We’re not saying that such people are always wrong. But we are saying that when it comes to 5G, the real advantages and capabilities will make themselves known in the future rather than at the moment of availability. The same can be said of 4G. There were those who were concerned with the electromagnetic radiation involved with 4G. And in the end, it presented almost all pros and close to no cons.

We certainly understand that there’s much about this new technology that has yet to be tested, which naturally leads to 5G concerns But to conclude with certainty that it could be used as a weapon is not supported by any conclusive data.

5. Will broadband be replaced by 5G?

No, it won’t. At least not right away.

5G concerns 05

In fact, when 5G initially becomes available from your carrier in your area, you likely won’t experience much change in the home. 5G is a mobile technology. It’s not a hardline (as we sometimes refer to home internet). Residential and commercial internet services like broadband and fiber are here to stay for a very long time.

5G is still in its infancy. It still has issues penetrating walls and traveling long distances. Broadband internet isn’t going away anytime soon, despite polls that suggest most consumers would prefer everything to be completely wireless. But who knows what new internet-related advances will be developed in years to come that could replace what’s commonplace today. It is very likely that in a few years, we'll all have the option to purchase a 5G router that will work in our home thanks to 5G being readily available outside our home. That's when cord-cutting becomes fully realized.

6. Will 5G make my phone faster no matter which one I have?

Assuming that you have a mobile phone that uses 4G or 3G, yes, 5G will eventually lower latency and increase speeds all around.

5G concerns 06

It’s important to remember that the implementation of 5G across the globe is an ongoing process. Some areas will have it before others. When one area of your country rolls out 5G, that doesn’t mean everyone everywhere - or even everyone in the surrounding area - will suddenly have boosted 4G service. There are other factors in play. But yes, due to the nature of 5G technology and how it’s being built “on top of” the 4G network, 4G users will experience better service as a result.

This is largely due to DSS, or dynamic spectrum sharing, which is a key aspect of 5G technology. Essentially, DSS allows major networks to utilize the same spectrum band for 4G and 5G. And over time, as more people transition from 4G to 5G, the 4G network will actually get stronger and faster. Sure, 5G is significantly better on all fronts. But it’s worth noting.

We’ve written about DSS in detail in a previous article. Click here to learn more.

7. Will I have to get an unlimited data plan to use 5G?

As it sits now, the answer is probably. But pricing models often change over time so who knows what could happen in the future.

5G concerns 07

Unlimited data plans are much more common and affordable than they once were. But it looks like Verizon and AT&T are requiring users to purchase an unlimited data plan if they want 5G. And on top of that, there could be an additional charge for 5G access. 3 of Verizon’s 4 unlimited plans require a $10 monthly charge for 5G. AT&T also charges a bit more for 5G access, but instead of showing up as an additional charge, it’s just “included” in the price of the unlimited plan. These plans, as of now, run from $30 to $50 per month with a four-line minimum.

T-Mobile is the only major provider who isn’t planning on charging extra for 5G. As long as you have an unlimited data plan, you have 5G access.

Remember, though, that when 4G LTE rolled out, pricing models fluctuated quite a bit during its first few years. It’s almost certain that something similar will happen with 5G. The way networks set their pricing now doesn’t mean it won’t change. It probably will.

8. Will video streaming be the highest quality all the time with 5G?

Not necessarily.

5G concerns 08

This isn’t really a controversy, but rather more of a frequently asked question. But so many people are asking this question online that it bears inclusion here.

The reason we say not necessarily is because the quality of your streaming in the 5G era doesn’t depend solely on whether or not your phone has 5G. It also depends on what streaming app you’re using and what kind of plan you’re paying for. For example, Netflix has many different plans, from Basic to Premium. The same can be said of Hulu, as well. In order for the benefits of 5G to take effect on your streaming apps, you need to be paying for an ultra high-definition or 4K Ultra HD plan.

But if you’re thinking that all mediocre streaming will automatically upgrade itself to the highest quality with the emergence of 5G, you’re mistaken. As stated before, 4G networks will definitely be enhanced as 5G emerges. And 5G will certainly increase the overall quality of streaming because of its lightning-fast speed capabilities. But users will need to create a 5G-compatible environment by using the proper device and paying for the proper streaming service.

9. Will 5G make reception available everywhere?


5G concerns 10

You may have heard the term digital divide. It refers to the reality that there are still many areas that not only don’t have mobile data access, they don’t have internet at all. Telecom companies around the world all have a shared goal to eventually “connect” every part of the globe. But 5G will likely not move that needle in the way some might expect it to.

5G’s capabilities far surpass 4G and anything else to date. The more widely it becomes available, the more all of our lives will benefit from it. It will surely make incredible things possible that we’re not even aware of yet. But the nature of 5G doesn’t particularly lend to it closing the digital divide in a significant way. Transitioning to 5G will be a staggered process. There will be large areas still on 4G for some time, particularly rural and agriculture areas. We’re already used to these areas having spotty service. And though new technology inches us closer to fixing this, 5G is probably not the magic ingredient that will spread connectivity far and wide.

5G Concerns (9 Controversies Addressed) - Conclusion

We may address some additional 5G concerns in future articles. If there are 5G or signal booster-related topics that you’d like to see us cover, let us know in the comments.