Urges support for 5G

Guest Editorial

Urges support for 5GAt the May 5 Ridgecrest City Council meeting the topic was raised on the public safety of the 5G cellular networks technology. 5G is the fifth-generation technology standard for the cellular telephone industry. It is the planned successor to the 4G/LTE network standard on which the current industry is built. Just like it will everywhere, 5G will have a major impact of the economy of this community.

This past week I asked six local experts for their thoughts on the 5G technology, its installation and any associated issues. This letter reflects the IWV EDC’s thoughts and those of the experts. It is offered for your consideration in making any decisions regarding the local rollout of 5G.

The deployment of telecommunications systems based on the 5G standard began last year and has resulted in some pushback due to public health worries and interference with other radio frequency systems like the Global Positioning System. 5G offers significant performance improvements and economic benefits over the 4G/LTE capability. It will be faster (especially when transferring very large data files) and more secure and will have higher network reliability. 4G/LTE is already showing signs of being overburdened; we have experienced this in emergency situations where many people are trying to contact their loved ones and first responders at the same time.

With 5G there are three frequency bands: a low-frequency band (~600-700 MHz), a mid-band (~2.5-3.7 GHz), and a high band (up above 25 GHz). Current cellular services already use major portions of the low- and mid-bands allotted for 5G. Radio waves are absorbed by the atmosphere according to their frequency; water in the air increases the absorption. High frequencies are absorbed faster so they travel shorter distances. Increasing the transmission power increases the range. This means that long-range transmissions to remote areas will use lower frequencies and power levels.

Suburban areas and rural areas will need mostly mid- and low-band capabilities. This is the case for Ridgecrest. It is driven primarily by need and cost. The high band is for short-range applications. These are much more costly, in part because transmitters have to be spaced closer together. As such the high band is intended primarily for use in densely populated areas, like cities, entertainment venues, etc., where people are close together and there are high data transmission demands. High-band applications in low populated areas will be driven strictly by demand.

5G has received some fair criticism from the NOAA and NASA regarding its potential interference with weather satellite data transmissions. Recently DOD has declared that 5G will impact some GPS performance. The former has been resolved, but the latter is still open. Navy officials expect our local governments to notify them in advance of any installation of new 5G equipment so they can help  tailor the installation to minimize any encroachment on its operations. The 4G/LTE signals had significant impacts that required IWV TV Booster, Inc., to vacate the frequency bands used by 4G/LTE and now 5G (low band). Reception of TV signals will not suffer interference from 5G signals.

There has been a lot of banter on the internet, much of it uninformed, about health concerns associated with 5G. While RF energy from any source can be dangerous, these dangers are generally associated with high-power applications. These situations, and their health implications, are fairly well understood and are the reasons for established field-strength limits for radio transmissions. Equipment and installations designed appropriately by competent engineers do not violate these limits. Hand-held transmitter/receivers (i.e., cell phones) use very low power levels and, thereby, pose little hazard.

That said, there are concerns (conceivable, but without experimental basis) that cumulative effects of exposure, even to low power levels, might be hazardous; but this hazard, if it exists at all, is present to a similar degree with 4G/LTE. Yes, the high band 5G application is new; but it, like the other bands, is used in very low power modes. High-frequency waves are blocked at the outer layer of the body by the high water content of the skin. The experts I talked to unanimously agree that the health risk of 5G is no worse than that of 4G/LTE and other electromagnetic radiation sources we currently live with.

Some final thoughts to consider: 5G has huge economic upsides with improvements in performance over 4G/LTE - particularly improved data transfer rates, network reliability and improved security. It will enable the ‘internet of things,” real-time augmented reality, very high end video streaming, etc. The investment to hook everyone up will be huge, so expect that access to full 5G capabilities will be a direct function of the population density and demand.

Denying access to 5G locally will only serve to hurt Ridgecrest. The concerns associated with specific tower placements in the city can be controlled by existing means (e.g., zoning and Planning Commission decisions). In the USA 5G is being rolled out now, and this will continue.

Ridgecrest without 5G will have a deleterious effect on the tech-savvy demographic of our community. It would be akin to denying broad-band internet access and relying on dial-up access. Professionals accustomed to high-performance networks may choose to not come to the IWV, and it might become a factor when deciding to stay. I believe this should be a huge concern to the city. I know it is to the IWV EDC. Please do not prohibit 5G advancement in our city.

Scott M. O’Neil, executive director

IWV Economic Development Corp.

Story First Published: 2020-05-22