What is 5G?

5G is being advertised everywhere and anywhere as the new higher speed and more reliable cellular network.

Non-stop marketing has led many of us to believe that 5G is going to be the greatest advancement of the 21st century.   After all, who wouldn’t be excited to download a 4K movie in a matter of second?

But, what the heck is 5G anyways?

High-Frequency Millimeter Waves

Today’s 4G LTE cellular devices use radiofrequency waves with frequencies ranging from 600 Megahertz to 6 Gigahertz (GHz). 

Frequency designates how many oscillations a wave makes per second.  

This basically means that the current 4G waves oscillate from 600 million to 6 billion times per second.

This spectrum of frequencies “below 6 Gigahertz” is becoming more crowded and leading to slower service and increased dropped calls.

The 5G network will include a new spectrum of higher frequencies ranging from 20-300 GHz g to help provide to more users with reliable cellular service. 

The wireless signals above 20 GHz will be very small and measured in millimeters (mm).  These 5G waves are often referred to as millimeter waves.

“5G” refers to the 5th generation of cellular technology that will make use of this new rage of frequencies.

5G does not refer to 5.8 GHz technology which is a currently a common frequency used for Wi-fi and cordless phones.

Interestingly, 5G relies heavily on older 3G and 4G technology and will continue to transmit at frequencies below 6 Gigahertz; however, 5G will also use the “new spectrum” of waves ranging from 20-300 GHz.

5G will mostly involve the transfer of data such as videos, pictures and other media over the cellular network. 

Voice calls and texts will continue to be transferred over the older 2G and 3G networks but will be managed by the 5G data network.  2G is in the process of being phased out.      

The 5G Spectrum

5G frequencies will be divided into 3 bands:

  • The Low Band will range from 600 MHz to 1 GHz and transmit data at about the same speed as the current 4G network


  • The Mid Band will range from 1 GHz to 6 GHz and transmit data approximately three times faster than the current 4G network


  • The High Band will use the 24 GHz, 28 GHz and the 39 GHz and higher frequencies.  The High Band will transmit data approximately 15 times faster than the current 4G network


  • The Low and Mid bands will transmit signals continuously throughout the day
  • The High band will transmit data only on demand when prompted by a 5G device

Mini Towers Galore

Build out of the 5G network will require the placement of numerous small cell towers (mini towers) very close to homes and public places.  Small 5G antennas will also be placed on power poles and in other public areas.

5G mm waves cannot penetrate well through buildings, glass and other obstacles and are absorbed by trees and rain. 

Mini towers will be placed very close together so that users can be frequently switched from one tower to another to help bypass obstructions.

Although these mini towers will be less powerful than the large cell towers that currently run the 4G network, they will expose us to a much higher level of wireless radiation due to their much closer proximity. 

In addition to higher frequency millimeter waves, 5G technology will include other new features including the following:

Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO)

There are typically about 12 antennas mounted to each 4G cell tower.

Massive MIMO technology will make it possible for each 5G base station to support up to 100 or more antennas and increase network capacity by over 20 times.


Massive MIMO antenna arrays will transmit different streams of data to numerous 5G devices at the same time.  

This would lead to massive interference if 5G towers broadcast signal in every direction like 3G and 4G.

Instead, beamforming will make it possible to send a precise, focused beam of data toward each device thereby decreasing interference and dropped calls. 

Beamformed 5G signals will also follow you as you move around with a cell phone or other wireless 5G device.

5G penetration through buildings will also improve with beamforming. 

Full Duplex Technology

4G LTE technology works like walkie talkies where incoming and outgoing signals travels in opposite directions on the same waves.  Devices can only either transmit or receive data at one time.  Outgoing or incoming data currently has to pause and “wait for its turn” or take place on a different frequency. 

Full duplex technology will make it possible for outgoing and incoming data transmission to take place simultaneously in both directions on the same wave frequency.  Uploading and downloading of data are expected to be possible at the same time using full duplex technology. 

Proximity is the Problem

The most worrisome aspect of 5G technology will be the placement of 5G as well as 4G LTE and 3G antennas closer to homes, businesses and public places.

There is great concern that exposure to 5G technology at frequencies below 6 GHz as well as above 20 GHz will negatively impact the health of people, pets, animal, insects and plants.

The justification for the placement of 5G small cell towers closer to our homes and businesses is that higher frequency millimeter waves travel shorter distances.  Since much of the 5G network will still rely heavily on 3G and 4G technology, these types of antennas will also be placed in close proximity as well.

In the past, 3G and 4G LTE antennas have traditionally been placed on large cell towers located approximately every few miles. 

There is great concern that the migration of 3G and 4G LTE antennas closer to homes and businesses may pose just as much of a health risk as 5G since these older technologies more easily penetrate buildings and glass.

The 5G rollout does not seem to be materializing as rapidly as anticipated due to many factors including:

  • Very high costs associated with construction of the 5G network and numerous towers
  • Consumer safety concerns
  • Higher data charges
  • More expensive cell phones and devices
  • Higher energy consumption (3-4 times higher than 4G)