Wiser Technology Advice Blog

Does 5G cause Coronavirus?

Sonya Weiser - Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Have you heard people talking about 5G mobile phone towers causing Coronavirus? This is of course a ridiculous conspiracy theory, but it got me thinking about how little people know and understand 5G and the hyper-connected world it will bring.

In this blog post I’ll briefly explain 5G, bust the myths that surround it and explore the hyper-connected world that’s coming with the advent of 5G telecommunications and the Internet of Things (IoT).

A brilliant response to a Tweet by a conspiracy theory nut has been doing the rounds on social media. Someone wanting the 5G towers to be taken down was given the response “The 5G towers will help download your conspiracy videos faster. “Whilst the response was posted using a fake account, Telstra has recycled the message saying “Attention everyone. This isn’t real, but we wish it was. So we’re tweeting it now”.

5G tweet by Telstra

Scarily, we’ve not just seen social media chatter amongst conspiracy theorists. There have been reports from Europe, the UK, USA and New Zealand of 5G mobile phone towers are actually being set alight by activists. And we’ve had South Australians sharing misinformation on social media and celebrating a fire at an Adelaide mobile phone tower. On May 9th up to a million dollars in damage was caused to a Vodafone tower in Morphett Vale, with Crime Scene investigators at the scene believing the fire was deliberately lit.

5G phone tower burning

5G does not have the risks conspiracy theorists would like us to believe. Contrary to this, there are great opportunities and a lot of interest in 5G. For example RMIT has recently partnered with IBM to develop two new online courses, designed to help business leaders prepare for the wide scale adoption of the Internet of Things and 5G technologies.

It will be very important for business leaders who don’t want to miss the boat to ensure they understand and exploit the benefits of the hyper-connected world of the future.

Please get in touch with me if you’d like my help to explore how your business can take advantage of the new hyper-connected world of 5G, nano-satellites and the Internet of Things.

5G explained

5G is the fifth generation of mobile network technology (thus the ‘G’) in its name. At the 2018 Information Technology in Aged Care conference I learnt about the evolution of the mobile networks, which were originally designed to support voice calls and only allowed analogue data to be transmitted.

evolution of 5G

The 2G networks allowed mobile phones to transmit digital data, introducing us to text messaging.3G allowed for larger volumes of data and the first smart phones were introduced to allow us to access the internet on the go. It was a giddy revolution for the start of the 21st century.

The current standard 4G networks is around 500 times faster than 3G and allows us to rely on our mobile devices for constant communication and connection to the world through social media, email, messaging, apps and of course the occasional phone call.

5G introduces a step change, almost as revolutionary as the first to second generation of mobile networks. The biggest differences between 4G and 5G will be the network’s peak capacity and latency.

5G is expected to be 100 times faster than 4G, with the peak capacity of 5G measured in gigabits per second, compared to 4G being measured in megabits per second.

The latency, or the time that passes from the moment information is sent from a device until it is used by a receiver, will be greatly reduced on 5G networks, allowing for faster upload and download speeds. Another big difference between 4G and 5G is bandwidth size.5G should be able to support many more devices of the future, in addition to the network demands of connected vehicles and other devices in the Internet of Things.

5G myth busting

The new 5G mobile phone network, earlier mobile networks and other wireless telecommunications sources emit radio waves, which are low-level radiofrequency electromagnetic energy.

5G in the electromagnetic spectrum

Conspiracy theorists are spreading concerns about whether the human immune system can be compromised by wireless telecommunications sources such as 5G, thus making people susceptible to Coronavirus infection. This of course is ridiculous and unfounded misinformation.

Professor Brendan Murphy, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, has published a statement where he says “There is no evidence telecommunication technologies, such as 5G, cause adverse health impacts.”

5G COVID facts from WHO

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) states “5G and other telecommunications do not affect the immune system”. The operating frequencies of the 5G network within the limits set by the ARPANSA safety standard. There is no established evidence that low level radio wave exposure from 5G and other wireless telecommunications can affect the immune system or cause any other short or long term health effects.

And where there’s fear there are opportunists, selling weird and whacky devices they claim protect people from 5G.In the UK, the London Trading Standards body is seeking to halt sales of a USB stick that has been claimed to offer protection via use of quantum technology against the supposed dangers of 5G.Cyber-security experts say the £339 5GBioShield appears to no more than a basic USB drive.

anti-5G USB stick

The operations director for the trading standards body said “We consider it to be a scam” and is seeking a court order to take down the seller’s website and protect people from being taken in by this unscrupulous operator.

Benefits of 5G

5G networks will be the key to unlocking the data transmission speed and reliability needed for the 4th industrial revolution of the Internet of Things. 5G can provide the volume of data needed for artificial intelligence (going well beyond the current fairly simple machine learning algorithms), supporting data flow for around a million devices per square km.

Here are just a few examples of what’s possible with 5G…

Driverless vehicles will be more feasible with the speed and reliability of 5G networks, using the high volume, low latency data needed for reliable autonomous driving. Cohda Wireless have trialled self-driving development vehicles at The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia, successfully having two autonomous vehicles following a lead vehicle around the track at a gap of 20 metres.

Cohda wireless autonomous platooning

This concept of platooning vehicles is intended for use in long-distance trucks capable of autonomous operation. Forbes magazine reported this year that US U.S. states are allowing automated follower truck platooning, with the benefits of safe close following (drafting) to improve fuel economy (4% for leader, 10% for follower) via “connected braking” between trucks enabled by vehicle-to-vehicle communications and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications.

autonomous truck platooning

5G networks can support virtual, augmented and mixed reality systems, such as remote worker expertise (head office talk to staff in the field), advanced workplaces (virtual screens that don’t need physical infrastructure), immersive training (holograms used in training, virtual world objects instead of a physical lab setup).

Virtual reality tools already help surgeons plan surgery, individuals experience a travel destination even before they take flight, children learn in a simulated (but very real) walk on the moon and soldiers train for combat scenarios, but the future will be full of even more virtual reality applications as businesses of all kinds figure out ways the technology can enhance operations.

virtual reality

Retailer IKEA created an augmented reality app that helps shoppers visualize what certain products will look like in their home before they purchase them. The app overlays virtual versions of the products onto the real-live image of customers’ living spaces. In addition to IKEA, companies in aviation, automotive, healthcare, travel and tourism, and more are developing augmented reality solutions.

Mixed reality is an extension of augmented reality that allows real and virtual elements to interact in an environment, allowing users to interact in real-time with virtual objects that are placed within the real world. These virtual items will respond and react to users as if they were actual objects.

The low latency of 5G networks and power of mixed reality enables telehealth, for example remotely controlling portable equipment such as ultrasound tables. This will support the provision of remote specialist services, with the benefits of broader community access.

High volume, low latency 5G will support the level of data flow needed for digital twinning, which exploits the benefits of video streaming, virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. A digital twin is a representation of a physical asset, process or system, as well as the engineering information that allows us to understand and model its performance.

digital twin railway

I attended an online webinar by Bentley recently on using digital twins to maintain rail infrastructure, where they explained how the variety of data sources of railroads can be brought together into a valuable information system. Digital twinning enables the information visibility necessary to safely create and operate an asset, supporting effective decision making and optimising business outcomes. With 5G data flows it is possible to run scenarios using AI on the digital twin to experiment before real-life changes, eliminating costly experiments and mistakes on the real-world asset.

Limited coverage of networks

So all the benefits of 5G sound great, but there’s a catch. Mobile networks are great while you’re in a populated area of Australia, but as you can see from the Telstra mobile overage map there are vast areas of the country that can’t be reached by mobile communications.

Telstra mobile coverage map

Telstra mobile coverage map - Adelaide

Landline and NBN internet access networks are also limited to the more populated areas of Australia, as you can see from the NBN rollout map.

This is where nano-satellites will come into their own to get the full benefit from the Internet of Things, but that’s another story for another day!

Want to know more?

Please get in touch if you’d like my help to explore how your business can take advantage of the new hyper-connected world of 5G and the Internet of Things.

Get in contact today, I’m always happy to meet and have a chat over a (virtual) coffee.

Further Reading

5G and other telecommunications do not affect the immune system, Australian Government – Australian Radiation Protection sand Nuclear Safety Agency 2 April 2020, available at https://www.arpansa.gov.au/news/5g-and-other-telecommunications-do-not-affect-immune-system

5G, explained, MIT Sloan Experts 12 Feb 2020, available at https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/5g-explained

Cohda Wireless Autonomous Platooning, Cohda Wireless 14 Oct 2019, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIyb-ILClrs

Coronavirus outbreak: Conspiracy theorists burn 5G towers, claiming link to COVID-19, Global News 14 May 2020, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bytUz7T3eHI  

Coronavirus: Scientists brand 5G claims 'complete rubbish', BBC News 15 April 2020, available at https://www.bbc.com/news/52168096

EU sets our rules for 5G small antennas, IT News 1 July 2020 available at https://www.itnews.com.au/news/eu-sets-out-rules-for-5g-small-antennas-549915?eid=3&edate=20200701&utm_source=20200701_PM&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=daily_newsletter

Ensuring Trusted Information with Digital Twins, Bentley, available at https://www.bentley.com/en/goingdigital/rail/digital-twins-in-rail

How false claims about 5G health risks spread into the mainstream, The Guardian 7 April 2020, available at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/apr/07/how-false-claims-about-5g-health-risks-spread-into-the-mainstream

IBM partners with RMIT Online for 5g, IoT courses IoT Hub 14 May 2020, available at https://www.iothub.com.au/news/ibm-partners-with-rmit-online-for-5g-iot-courses-548113?eid=75&edate=20200617&utm_source=20200617&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=newsletter

NBN rollout map, available at https://www.nbnco.com.au/learn/rollout-map

Phone towers targeted amid virus-5G conspiracy theory InDaily 20 July 2020, available at https://indaily.com.au/news/2020/07/20/phone-towers-targeted-amid-virus-5g-conspiracy-theory/

Safety of 5G technology, Australian Government - Department of Health 24 January 2020, available at https://www.health.gov.au/news/safety-of-5g-technology

Telstra mobile network coverage map, available at https://www.telstra.com.au/coverage-networks/our-coverage

Telstra responds after tweet to 5G conspiracy theorist goes viral, 7News 22 May 2020, available at https://7news.com.au/technology/telstra-responds-after-tweet-to-5g-conspiracy-theorist-goes-viral-c-1053173

Telstra trolls 5G conspiracy theorists who claim the tech causes coronavirus, Sound Health and Lasting Wealth, available at https://www.soundhealthandlastingwealth.com/covid-19/telstra-trolls-5g-conspiracy-theorists-who-claim-the-tech-causes-coronavirus/

The Dark Side of 5G, MIT Sloan Experts 21 April 2020, available at https://mitsloan.mit.edu/experts/dark-side-5g

The Important Difference Between Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality, Bernard Marr & Co., available at https://bernardmarr.com/default.asp?contentID=1912  

The Important Difference Between Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality, Forbes 19 Jul 2020, available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2019/07/19/the-important-difference-between-virtual-reality-augmented-reality-and-mixed-reality/#46e04d0c35d3  

Trading Standards squad targets anti-5G USB stick, BBC News 28 May 2020, available at https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-52810220  

U.S. States Are Allowing Automated Follower Truck Platooning While The Swedes May Lead In Europe, Forbes 2 May 2020, available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardbishop1/2020/05/02/us-states-are-allowing-automated-follower-truck-platooning-while-the-swedes-may-lead-in-europe/#7b8a2359d7e8

What is the difference between 3G, 4G and 5G?, Verizon, available at https://www.verizon.com/about/our-company/5g/difference-between-3g-4g-5g

Why 5G isn’t just faster 4G, Forbes 25 May 2019, available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/simonrockman1/2019/05/25/why-5g-isnt-just-faster-4g/#47802c8f43a6


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