5G is rolling out across the UK, and some Brits are scared it can cause health issues – but there's absolutely nothing to worry about.
We explain what 5G is, how it works, the type of radiation being used, and why it's fine if a 5G mast is near you.
What is 5G?
Just like 4G (and 3G before that), 5G is simply a new generation of mobile internet.
Phone networks have tweaked the technology to deliver faster speeds – and have dubbed it the "5th generation", or 5G.
In the UK, 5G speeds are already coming in at around 10 times the average 4G speeds.
And loads of phone makers have produced 5G-ready handsets, including Samsung, Huawei, OnePlus and now even Apple too.
What type of radiation is 5G?
All signals fall on the electromagnetic spectrum – from radio waves, to X-rays, and even visible light.
Phone networks use microwaves of a very specific frequency to deliver the internet to your iPhone or Android mobile.
This was true of 3G and 4G, and it's still true with 5G.
In the UK, 4G signals generally sit between 800MHz and 2.6GHz on the electromagnetic spectrum.
5G is a little higher at 3.4GHz to 3.6GHz, but that's tiny when you consider that microwaves go up to 300GHz.
And visible light comes in at a range of around 430THz to 770THz.
That's more than a thousand times higher than the maximum microwave – and 100,000 higher than 5G.
Dangerous radiation, like UV rays, X-rays and gamma rays are also far higher up the spectrum still.
Can 5G radiation cause harm?
Online conspiracy theorists are claiming that 5G can cause harm.
Early theories suggested 5G could lead to cancer – and now crackpots have linked it to coronavirus too.
But it's simply impossible for 5G to cause any of these problems.
Radiation damages cells by breaking them apart, but 5G microwaves simply lack the power to do this.
5G is a low-frequency radiation, far below infrared and visible light.
In fact, it's essential that 5G is low-frequency, because higher frequencies are less useful at delivering mobile signals over large areas.
We know that this level of radiation is safe, because otherwise the visible light from our televisions would have killed us a long time ago.
Even very powerful low-frequency radiation won't hurt you. For instance, microwaves can be used in ovens to provide a heating effect – but phone signals are far less powerful than that.
5G conspiracy theories – why are they spreading?
Here’s what you need to know…
- The electromagnetic spectrum is nothing new.
- But the internet allows conspiracies to spread at speed, according to EE's Howard Jones.
- "The problem is the level of research people are willing to do that supports the hypothesis they already hold," Howard told us.
- "You can find lots of people talking about how 5G is not safe on the internet.
- "But people talking about how 5G is safe just doesn't happen as much. There isn't as much objective and motivation there to say it is safe."
- However, there are lots of reasons 5G seems scary to people.
- Dr David Grimes explained: "The first one is the difficult proving a negative.
- "The other factor is that radiation is invisible. It's a scary word: we conflate difference concepts like radiation and radioactivity.
- "Radiation is just the transmission of energy through a medium – light is radiation."
- "The things being said about 5G were being said about normal mobile phones and masts in the late 90s. The claims aren't updated, they're just reiterated.
- He went on: "Once you're suckered into these beliefs, it's hard to leave them.
- "Even if we want to believe it, we almost have to put our questioning hat on, and say what evidence is there for that?
- "Particularly online, you have to treat things with a massive pinch of salt.
- "It's something as a society we have to learn, or we'll be taken advantage of by cranks or scheming Russians."
Are there dangers and should I worry about 5G towers near me?
According to decades of science, there is no reason why 5G should cause any harm.
This type of radiation (and more powerful radiation) is already widely used, and experienced commonly in our daily lives.
Perhaps the biggest danger related to 5G is the spate of arson attacks on 5G masts.
These fires cost money, put lives at risk, and damage vital network infrastructure that keeps people connected.
So rest easy: 5G is safe and will mean you can download your favourite TV shows and movies faster than ever.
Is the iPhone 5G?
For months, 5G has been incompatible with all iPhone models.
But in October 2020, Apple launched the iPhone 12 – in four models that all support 5G.
So if you buy any new iPhone 12, you'll be able to get 5G speeds. As long as you have a 5G phone contract and SIM, of course.
Find out if 5G is in your area right now.
Check out the best 5G phones you can buy today.
Have you upgraded to 5G yet? Let us know in the comments!
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