Is 5G Technology As Good As Smart Cities Think?

5G Technology for Smart Cities

As per estimates, the world will have over 1.1 billion 5G connections by 2025 which will account for 15% of the total connections. 4G and 5G wireless connections will add to approximately 67% of the total mobile connections across the globe. Reports show that 5G device can be nearly 1000 times faster than a 4G device, running at a speed of over 10 Gbps.

The world is waiting to experience the magical speed of the fifth generation i.e. 5G technology. Smart cities, all over the globe are preparing to welcome the new era of 5G technology which will bring a lot of changes to the existing infrastructure in the urban space. But how these changes will affect the common man and the skilled personnel (in different ways) is yet to be understood completely.  

Earlier we explored the fascinating benefits of 5G but now it is time to understand different challenges associated with it. So, let’s find out whether 5G technology truly comes as a boon to smart cities!

Challenge 1 – The Cost

Any technology that is meant to be deployed for practical use must not be prohibitively expensive. However, the mass adoption of 5G technology might face this challenge initially. The annual investments required to upgrade the existing infrastructure to 5G is predicted to surpass $200 billion lines. For example, a 2016 report revealed that nationwide 5G coverage for the US would presumably cost over $300 billion. Moreover, the carriers will also have to incur heavy prices for upgrading their existing infrastructure to make way for new devices and antennas needed for 5G systems. Hence, even the initial subscription plans are most likely to be expensive than the ones that are currently available. Nevetherless, the price might eventually drop to meet the growing demands of consumers.  

Challenge 2 – Coverage and Radio Frequencies

Radio Frequency Congestion

As per reports, 5G technology will apparently use the 6 GHz or lower frequency. Here the challenge is that this radio frequency is already in use by satellite links and a number of other signal types. As this frequency range is already congested there is a possibility of some lingering problems with data transmissions. Another complex factor is that 5G network cells will offer lower coverage than 4G counterparts which means that more cell towers will be required to push 5G as the mainstream network.

Challenge 3 – Security

Even though 5G technology is recognised with its advanced computing and networking power, there are uncertainties to how it will manage critical security and privacy concerns. A 2017 report unveiled that both 3G and 4G were exposed to ‘stringray’ attacks and other shockingly common forms of the data hack. To make the technology viable and secure the hindrance will be on the carriers to integrate robust endpoint security standards for recognising and eliminating malware. Also, for developing pre-tested fire encumbrance cells and monitoring DNS activities and building strong data integrity assurances. In addition, the 5G systems will need better identity management systems with sandboxing solutions. Cloud networks and data virtualisation will have a vital role to play in 5G space. In case the security assurances are not satisfied, people might choose the new wireless generation cautiously.

Challenge 4 – Skilled Personnel

The mass adoption of 5G technology at the global level will demand an enormous number of highly trained software and data network engineers. As the 5G deployment will mostly lead to an overhaul of the current infrastructure, training the skilled workers will be crucial. Every phase of 5G will require training in conceptualisation, installation to deployment, maintenance and fault-detection, repair, debugging. In the mobile app development domain, the developers and testers will require to collaborate to design 5G-compatible applications.

Challenge 5 – Health Concerns

Over 180 scientists and doctors from 36 countries have pleaded the European Union against the danger associated with 5G that will lead to an extensive increase in involuntary exposure to electromagnetic radiation(Cell towers emit Radio Frequency Radiation). The scientists have requested the EU to follow Resolution 1815 of the Council of Europe, asking for an independent task force to reevaluate the health effects. In addition, they have also urged to delay the augmentation of the 5G network until the potential health risks related to human and the environment have been comprehensively investigated by scientists.

5G towers are more dangerous than other cell towers as they have ultra-high frequency and ultra-high intensity. Moreover, shorter length millimetre waves used in 5G do not travel very far. Therefore, a mini cell tower needs to be installed every 2 to 8 houses. This will further increase the exposure to RF Radiation when we are already living in an environment occupied by 2G, 3G, 4G and WiFi radiation. In fact, we already have evidence that RF-EMF has adverse effects on human and the environment.

Brussels – The First City To Block Plans To Pilot 5G Technology

The government of Brussels has blocked the plans to pilot 5G technology as it is not able to measure radiation levels from 5G antennas. Brussels has one of the most stringent radiation regulations in the world with limits confined to 6 volts per metre.  

Recently, the Belgian Institute of Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT) suggested that Brussels increased the limits to enable the city to benefit from 5G technology. The Ministers accepted an increase to 9v/m indoors and 14.5v/m outdoors.

The Orange Company declared the plans to deploy 5G in Brussels but Céline Fremault, the Minister for Housing, Quality of Life, Environment and Energy in the Government of the Brussels Capital Region, is not approving further activity due to issues that massive MIMO antennas aren’t technically able to measure the amount of radiation emitted. Furthermore, she understands the benefits of 5G in areas like mobility and health. However, she said that citizens of Brussels will not be “guinea pigs” and 5G coverage will be halted until the radiation is not accurately measured.

The commencement of 5G roll-outs in Switzerland moved the company Swisscom to publish 5G related facts in the wake of growing misinformation and consumer concerns related to problems like high-frequency 5G radiation killing birds, the use of 5G by the military as weapon and 5G causing cancer. The Swisscom would inform about the 5G related updates on a regular basis.

Christian Neuhaus, Swisscom spokesperson stated to Swiss public television that the 5G-related frequencies are the same as what we have been using for years. They have been examined in thousands of studies and not even one of them was able to provide scientific evidence that 5G will lead to serious health risks.

In another place, Belgium, the operators are facing challenges in rolling out 5G technology as the government has put the spectrum auction on hold until 2020 or later. This is because the ministers are not able to attain consensus on how the progress from the auction should be allocated. The government anticipates raising €680 million from the auction.

About 18 carriers including AT&T, Telstra, Verizon, Vodafone, and others are preparing to release 5G devices this year in 2019. It will be interesting to watch how the technology will be able to use its power and tackle the challenges in the best possible way.

The 5G era is already upon us. But before its establishment, we hope the technology is fully analysed and understood – that is on smart city governments, carrier companies and even the skilled class that is involved in its development.

We need to stay optimistic but at the same time remain cautious!