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5G: The Latest Generation of Mobile Connectivity

5G: The Latest Generation of Mobile Connectivity

On 1st October 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated 5G services to the nation at India Mobile Congress (IMC). A recent report by PwC estimated that 5G shall contribute a whopping 1.3 Trillion USD to the global GDP by 2030. So, what is this technology that was embroiled in the Geopolitics between USA and China? What are its benefits? Is it harmful to health, as alleged? Can you improve your income using 5G? Read on to find out.

What is 5G?

Officially named, 5G NR (New Radio), this technology is the latest standard for wireless cellular connectivity. What this means is that 5G has the potential to revolutionise your internet-usage experience by providing higher download speeds, lesser call drops, and uninterrupted voice transmission. While no single company or government has created or controlled 5G, it is the result of cutting-edge research by many organizations. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the consortium of telecommunication industry organizations is responsible for delineating global standards for 4G LTE, 5G, and other cellular technologies.

5G makes use of Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) technology for transmitting data from your device to the receiver’s device. OFDM is a technique used to modulate the sender’s digital signal over multiple channels, instead of a single one. It is like when you are advised not to put all your money in one place when travelling, lest it is stolen. Similarly, when the data is cut up into chunks and sent over multiple channels, there is a lesser chance of it getting corrupted. This leads to an increase in reliability and a reduction in mid-air interference. As it is easier and faster to transmit as well as receive small chunks of data, the bandwidth needed is lesser. This free-ups the network so that it is possible to service a greater number of requests, thus improving the connection quality for everybody utilizing the network. So, the next time you are in a crowded place where everybody’s using their network, you can have the best voice quality, instead of call drops and slow data speeds!

Preceding Generations

It is different from the earlier generations in that it provides ultra-high data speeds and super-low latency to power real-time applications. While 1G and 2G never had mobile data capabilities, you might recall that 3G was terribly slow. At a peak speed of 14 MBPS, 3G would take about 7 minutes to download an MP3 song.

The real revolution in the world of mobile data was brought about by 4G which provided download speeds of up to 100 MBPS. This enabled real-time video calling, streaming of high-quality videos and games, and improved voice quality. This was possible as 4G used a higher band of frequencies than its predecessors, as shown in the table below:

Table 1: Frequency Spectrum used by Mobile Connectivity Generations

As you can see in Table 1, 5G is the only generation of mobile connectivity to utilize High-Band Frequencies. This is the reason you shall need a 5G-enabled mobile device to use 5G services. The main advantage of using frequencies in the Giga-Hertz band for wireless transmission is that they can travel longer distances with lower power requirements. RF waves above 6 GHz frequencies were hitherto limited to use in applications such as microwave links, radar, and for therapeutic applications. Expanding into a newer band of frequencies has led to an increase in the network capacity of 5G. This shall result in users having a uniform usage experience wherein data rates are consistently high even when moving around.

The Need for Speed

In the neo-modern world, as technology makes strides and especially with the advent of Industrial Revolution 4.0, high-speed internet has become a necessary component of businesses. In the post-pandemic world, internet usage has sky-rocketed with education, work, and entertainment getting online. The average monthly internet consumption in India was about 14.1 GB in 2021, according to a report by the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India.

With the world of technology welcoming its newer siblings such as the Internet of Things, Extended Reality, Autonomous Cars, Industrial and Home Automation, etc., even the once-terrific speeds of 4G fail to produce desired results due to high latency and lower throughput rates (A throughput rate is the actual amount of data that is successfully received over the transmission network in a given time).

With this desire for an improved network that could provide the required bandwidth, speed, and reliability to support mission-critical communications, 5G was created.

How is it different from 4G?

Applications of 5G NR

Now that we have understood what 5G is and its advantages over 4G, let us look at some of the applications that have been made possible only because of the advent of 5G. These applications are those that require high-speed network connectivity and involve real-time decision-making, such as –

1. Autonomous Cars.

2. Remote Surgery using a Robotic Arm.

3. Shopping on Augmented Reality (AR) platforms.

4. Real-Time Traffic Control

5. Continuous remote monitoring of critical patients.

6. Tsunami or Hurricane warning system with real-time updates.

7. Watching live cricket matches at home by using Virtual Reality (VR) headsets, that make you feel like you are in the stadium.

… And many more.

How can 5G benefit you?

A ‘5G Economy Study’ by Qualcomm estimates the creation of a total of 22.8 Million new jobs by 2035 only due to the 5G value chain. These jobs would be that of the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), application and web developers, operators, etc. Addition to the job market would not be restricted to the tech and manufacturing industry but shall encompass most other industries like automotive, tourism, entertainment, imaging, R&D, etc.

A recent report by GSMA Intelligence forecasts an addition of a massive sum of ₹36.4 trillion ($455 billion) between 2023 and 2040 in the Indian economy. This massive amount will give rise to many newer opportunities for earning, especially for students, homemakers, gig workers, etc. Trickling down of investment and easing of processes due to the omnipresence of high-speed internet shall encourage people to produce secondary sources of income in the way of content-creation, online businesses, product influencing, digital marketing, online coaching, et. al.

Thus, you can jump on this 5G bandwagon and make money by learning appropriate skills.

Is 5G Harmful to Human Health?

In June 2021, actress-environmentalist Juhi Chawla, filed a petition against 5G in Delhi High Court, saying that “if the 5G plans materialise, they threaten to provoke serious, irreversible effects on humans and permanent damage to all of the Earth’s ecosystems”. The case was dismissed by the HC who called it a publicity stunt and imposed a fine on the plaintiff. This case attracted a lot of media attention and lead to discussions, across the board, on the effects of RF (Radio Frequency) and EMF (Electro Magnetic Fields) radiation on living beings, especially humans.

But what is the truth? Is 5G harmful to us?

According to a study – ‘5G mobile networks and health—a state-of-the-science review of the research into low-level RF fields above 6 GHz’ – published in The Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, the answer is ‘No’. The research into the biological and health effects of RF fields above 6 GHz study included 107 experimental studies that investigated various bioeffects including genotoxicity, cell proliferation, gene expression, cell signalling, membrane function, and other effects.

It studied the effects of radiation at exposure levels below the occupational limits set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) because public exposure to RF fields from 5G and other sources is below the human exposure limits specified by ICNIRP. ICNIRP is an independent non-profit organization, that provides scientific advice and guidance on the health and environmental effects of non-ionizing radiation (NIR) to protect people and the environment from detrimental NIR exposure. The study suggests that future epidemiological studies should continue to monitor long-term health effects in the population related to wireless telecommunications.

These conclusions were iterated by many other reputed research teams. Hence, it is safe to say for now that 5G is not harmful to live beings.

In the past two decades, global society and economy have achieved previously unimaginable progress due to the advent of the internet and mobile tech. And, when both these influential technologies merge into 5G, it is nothing short of a revolution – a revolution that, when utilized correctly, can democratize societies, bridge the rich-poor divide, and bring the world closer.

*The views/opinions expressed in the above article exclusively belong to the writer. Tatvita may have different opinions on the subject.*

Vishvali Deo

Vishvali Deo is an E&TC (Electronics and Telecommunication) Engineer by education and Software Engineer by Profession. She believes that 'Technology is a Great Democratising and Equalising Force' and hence is on a mission to make the general public understand seemingly complex technologies in a simple manner.

She is convinced that the root of today's world problems lie in the past, hence she has also pursued post-graduation in History. She has a keen interest and a good grip over Economics, Political Science and Environmental Engineering. She has a penchant for working with Women and spreading Digital Literacy amongst them, with the aim of their empowerment. She also strives to provide Free Quality Education to children and counsels young adults. Besides, she is also skilled at Public Speaking, having won many awards in Elocution & Debate Competitions and Technical Paper Presentations.

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