Turns out 5G is safe – yay

Updated guidelines from experts on this sort of thing show that, even at millimetre wave, 5G in its current form poses no additional risk to health.

The International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has updated its guidelines for the protection of humans exposed to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. These aren’t so much specific to 5G technology, but to the fact that, as a result of 5G, we’re going to be zapping higher frequencies radio EMF around the place than we had previously.

An important part of the name of the German organisation, which seems to be lost on some of the more unhinged 5G conspiracy theorists, is the ‘non-ionizing’ part. Radio is at the opposite end of the electromagnetic spectrum (see below, credit: NASA’s Imagine the Universe) to ionizing radiation such as gamma rays. That means it’s not mutagenic and any threat it poses concerns local bodily temperature rises, something that increases as you get closer to microwaves.

“We know parts of the community are concerned about the safety of 5G and we hope the updated guidelines will help put people at ease,” said ICNIRP Chairman, Dr Eric van Rongen. “The guidelines have been developed after a thorough review of all relevant scientific literature, scientific workshops and an extensive public consultation process. They provide protection against all scientifically substantiated adverse health effects due to EMF exposure in the 100 kHz to 300 GHz range.”

The main changes to the organization’s first lot of recommendations on radio for mobile in 1998 concern frequencies above 6 GHz. They include: the addition of a restriction for exposure to the whole body; the addition  of a restriction for brief (less  than  6 minute) exposures to small regions of the body; and the reduction of the maximum exposure permitted over a small region of the body. You can see then summarised in the table below, which was taken from a video you can view here.

“When we revised the guidelines, we looked at the adequacy of the ones we published in 1998. We found that the previous ones were conservative in most cases, and they’d still  provide  adequate  protection  for  current  technologies,”  said Van Rongen. “However, the new guidelines provide better and more detailed exposure guidance in particular for the higher frequency range, above 6 GHz, which is of importance to 5G and future technologies using these higher frequencies. The most important thing for people to remember is that 5G technologies will not be able to cause harm when these new guidelines are adhered to.”

Of course this won’t stop some people hearing the word ‘radiation’ and thinking nuclear fallout or being turned into the Incredible Hulk, but for the rest of us this seems to put the matter to rest. Conflating correlation with causation is a common mistake among paranoid types, which is why some nutters are even trying to draw a line between the coronavirus pandemic and 5G. Ignore them.

Verizon the biggest winner of the latest US millimeter-wave auction

An investment of $1.6 billion got Verizon almost five million licenses in the US auction of the Upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands that will be used for 5G.

You can see who got the most below. Apparently T-Mobile had been expected, at least by some analysts, to be the big winner, but it ended up a distant third. It’s also worth noting by how much Verizon won the auction, dropping almost half a billion bucks more than second placed AT&T. We’d be lying if we said we knew why there was so much variation in the price per license, but Columbia Capital must have really fancied those 52 it won.

Winner Payment Licenses
Verizon $1,624,101,808 4,940
AT&T $1,185,734,976 3,267
T-Mobile $872,791,192 2,384
Columbia Capital $306,711,619 52
Dish $202,532,574 2,651
U.S. Cellular $146,342,281 237
Sprint $113,948,318 127

“The successful conclusion of Auction 103—the largest amount of spectrum offered in an auction in U.S. history—is one more significant step the FCC has taken toward maintaining American leadership in 5G,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “A critical part of our 5G FAST plan is pushing more spectrum into the commercial marketplace. Last year, the FCC auctioned the 28 GHz and 24 GHz bands.

“All told, those two auctions and this one have made available almost five gigahertz of high-band spectrum for commercial use. To put that in perspective, that is more spectrum than is currently used for terrestrial mobile broadband by all wireless service providers in the United States combined. Auction 103 was a tremendous success, and we look forward to building on this positive result with the 3.5 GHz auction, which is scheduled to begin on June 25, and the C-band auction, which is scheduled to begin on December 8.”

Have you noticed how much Americans like the word ‘tremendous’ these days? One definition of it is ‘being such as may excite trembling or arouse dread, awe, or terror’. Fair enough. The mid bands on offer later this year are also for 5G. Those frequencies have better propagation characteristics than millimeter wave but there will be less of them, as is so often the way with radio spectra.

Qualcomm has one last 2018 5G fest with TIM in Rome

Qualcomm’s events team has had a frantic end to the year, culminating in the demo of a 5G NR video call over millimeter wave in Italy.

The venue was TIM’s freshly unveiled 5G Innovation Hub in Rome. In attendance were Qualcomm and TIM, of course, but also a host of kit and device partners as well as the great and good of Roman public life, including its Mayor Virginia Raggi (pictured). Most of the presentations were in Italian, but they sounded pretty cool, and there were also a bunch of demos from the various partners.

The highlight of the day was what was claimed to be Europe’s first 5G NR video call, completed over the TIM network using millimeter wave. It made use of a Qualcomm modem and some Ericsson kit. The demo is being positioned as ‘a new milestone that will soon lead to the commercial use of 5G mmWave technology in Europe.’

“When we started to define the strategy and the development plans for 5G, we immediately realized that such a massive challenge could not be faced without the support of a wide range of partners committed to the same goal,” said Mario Di Mauro, Chief Strategy, Innovation & Customer Experience Officer at TIM.

“We therefore proposed Qualcomm Technologies set up a place where work on the new 5G services and every business idea could find a quick realization thanks to the support of leading international technology players, innovative partners and start-ups from the local and national ecosystem.”

“Qualcomm Technologies is very excited to be part of this initiative and we would like to congratulate TIM on the significant momentum they have achieved in a short time with the Hub,” said Enrico Salvatori, President Qualcomm EMEA. “A great example of innovation is today’s demo showing the first 5G mmWave mobile smartphone form-factor mobile test device powered by the Snapdragon X50 5G modem connecting to Ericsson 5G Radio Access Network.

“We are very pleased to be part of the team helping to bring 5G to commercial reality in Italy in 2019 and also to realizing the vision of the Hub. 5G is so much more than new devices and smartphones and it will provide significant growth opportunities in new sectors. The Hub provides TIM with a strong platform to leverage the benefits of 5G to a whole host of new customers and industries.”

We’ll leave it at that for now, but we shot a bunch of video interviews while we were there so keep an eye out for those in the coming days. We can also recommend the Farina Kitchen pizza restaurant, which features a proper wood fired oven and does a very naughty fried pizza starter. Here’s a shot of the 5G call taking place.

TIM video call

AT&T finally does something with its Project AirGig wireline internet thing

Project AirGig is a novel initiative from AT&T in which public power lines are used to guide millimeter wave data transmissions.

AT&T has been banging on about this for a while and at the start of this year took the brave step of announcing ‘advanced discussions’ on the matter. In hindsight even this claim seems to have been excessive since there has been radio silence (pardon the pun) for the 11 subsequent months.

Until now! Actually there seems to have ben one trial in that period and now AT&T is conducting a second domestic one – in Georgia – as well as an international trial. To be fair AT&T has been working on this tech for over a decade, so it’s not too shocking that progress remains gradual.

“Project AirGig is part of our ongoing effort to accelerate internet connections to a gig or more through both wired and wireless solutions,” said Andre Fuetsch, president, AT&T Labs and CTO. “But it also stands alone as a radically innovative solution to bridge the global digital divide. If these trials and our continued research and development turn out the way we intend, we’ll take a big step toward bringing hyper-fast connectivity to people everywhere.”

“AT&T has a long-history of connecting people with their world and is proud to be on the cutting-edge of innovation, now with Project AirGig trials,” said Bill Leahy, president of AT&T Georgia. “Governor Deal and legislative leadership have worked hard to create an environment that welcomes private investment and innovation, and the significant decision to conduct our national AirGig trial in Georgia is evidence of that. We appreciate our collaboration with Georgia Power and look forward to yet another way to deliver gigabit internet connections to consumers.”

But don’t get too excited just yet. AT&T is not committing to any timelines, even for the next stage of development, let alone for commercial deployment. But AT&T says it’s excited by what it has seen so far, so that’s nice. Here’s a vid from ages ago.