What is 5G?

5G is the term used to describe the next-generation of mobile networks beyond the 4G LTE mobile networks commonly used today. 5G is intended to be the technology that allows the Internet of Things (IOT), which seeks to tie all internet connected devices together.

5G uses high-frequency gigahertz microwave signals that support faster data transmission speeds but don’t travel as efficiently as current wireless frequencies. So instead of relying on large cellphone towers spread far apart, they require so-called “small cell” sites that are much closer together and which will be installed at far higher densities throughout our communities on buildings, trees and  telephone and light poles, in nearly all cases very close to our homes and workplaces.

What 5G is:

  • 4G/5G Close Proximity Microwave Radiation Antennae (CPMRA), are small cell towers on telephone poles, PG&E poles and street lights which transmit pulsed, data-modulated, Radio-frequency Electromagnetic Microwave Radiation (RF-EMR) 24 hours per day, 7 days per week — and essentially function as cell towers. Radiation emitted from small cells, according to Verizon, can provide high data rates at well over  3,000 ft. Millions of small cells are planned to be installed in residential zones across the country.
  • 5G will add to, not replace, our current wireless technology. It will not only utilize wireless frequencies already in use but also add in higher frequencies (submillimeter and millimeter waves) in order to achieve these faster transfer speeds.
  • 5G is designed to enable wireless transmission of HD TV and the internet of things (IOT) of which there is little, if any, consumer demand.  
  • 5G is sometimes being defined more generally to include making  wireless networks more dense, by adding more small cell antennas in local communities using the same frequency bands as existing 4G networks.

What 5G is not:

  • Coverage– 5G is unlikely to provide any more overall cellphone coverage  in Marin communities than existing 3G/4G because it won’t be worthwhile economically for the telecom industry to cover every canyon, or low density areas containing few homes.
  • Speed- Experts believe that 5G may achieve speeds that are up to 10 times that of 4G in real world settings.  Fiber optic technology, on the other hand, can achieve rates that are over 100x faster than 4G.
  • Fire safety- Adding new equipment to already overloaded poles will increase risk of fire.
  • Emergency Communications-  5G will not provide increased emergency communications for fire because  5G equipment is just as susceptible to fire damage as other existing communications infrastructure, including copper wire used for conventional phone service.  
  • Proximity- 5G antennas, more than prior technologies, require line of sight to operate effectively. Despite antennas having a potential range of 3,000 feet for gigabit speeds, higher frequency wavelengths used with 5G will require many times more antennas throughout our communities compared with 4G and prior technologies because shorter wavelength 5G signals do not bend around obstruction as do longer wavelength signals found with 4G.
  • Internet of Things (IOT): 5G is not necessary for IOT. IOT can be implemented in our homes using conventional home wireless modem/router equipment that most of us currently already possess.
  • Wi-Fi router: Some have confused the “5GHz” on their home portable phones  or wireless routers with 5G technology.  5G refers to the fifth generation of wireless technology, not to the frequency of the signal, which is what 5GHz refers to. 
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