5G technology

millimeter waves

What’s this? It’s used for? how does it work?

5G: what is it?
It is, after 2G, 3G, then 4G, the fifth generation of standards for mobile telephony.

5G: why?

To “get” more throughput: 5G technology is a new generation that will dramatically improve the speed, coverage and responsiveness of wireless networks (commonly known as latency i.e. the response time between when you click on a link and when the network responds, by connecting you to the requested website for example).

It will provide access to speeds exceeding at least 10 orders of magnitude 4G for a conventional cellular connection, much faster than what is common to obtain with optical fiber.

But why would anyone want more throughput? To use connected objects, to perform current functions more quickly (downloading of films for example), for the handling of autonomous cars, for industry.
In summary, the why is mainly economic.

5G: how does it work?

By deploying antennas which will be added to the existing antennas and will have a higher transmission power.

What is the “expected deployment”?

The commissioning of 5G would be done in 2 phases:

  • The first, which is looming soon and is already in place in some cities in the form of “tests”, would transmit on the 3.6Ghz band (3.4-3.8GHz)
  • The second is still today to be put in the conditional, since the commercial licenses are in the process of being issued. On the other hand, the test licenses have been issued. The information available refers to the use of frequencies in the 26Ghz band (24.25-27.5Ghz).
    This second phase would use millimeter waves. Millimeter waves are not new, far from it. These are, for example, those used for a long time by radio amateurs, body scanners, etc.

What exactly are millimeter waves? and why do they bear this name?

These are all waves whose frequency is between 30 and 300 GHz. As for the notion of “millimeter”, it is related to their wavelength (see our glossary). In the case of telecommunications, the typical use of millimeter waves generally oscillates between 30 and 70 GHz.

Why have they come to the fore for several months?

Because their available spectrum makes it possible to “make room” for mobile telephone operators who each have blocks of a few tens of MHz that cannot be extended indefinitely. Solution to find large blocks available: increase in frequency. This is precisely the case with millimeter waves.

These waves correspond to frequencies 10 to 30 times higher than those currently used by mobile networks (700MHz to 2,600MHz in France). On the other hand, their propagation is more limited: the range is only a few hundred meters. Transmission is often only possible in a direct line, without any obstacle between the transmitter and the terminal. They will therefore be usable only in very dense urban areas.

What is the meaning of this deployment? Ecologically, economically

5G is now presented as self-evident. But its deployment is not accompanied by any evaluation aimed objectively at identifying and measuring the disadvantages caused in relation to its interest.

What would be the possible disadvantages?

  • first of all in terms of health: can we seriously imagine that our bodies, permanently “attacked” by the waves, can feel none?
  • in environmental terms: 5G equipment consumes three times more than 4G equipment; adding 5G equipment to existing masts (2G, 3G, 4G) will lead to increased site consumption; moreover, to ensure the same coverage, three times as many sites will be needed for 5G as for 4G; it has been estimated that the energy consumption of mobile operators would be multiplied by at least 2.5 to 3 in the five years following the introduction. However, it is not impossible that this estimate will be reduced and it does not seem exaggerated to think that the energy demand would rather be multiplied by 7 or 8. Unless the technology evolves towards less greedy superconductive materials.
    If we add to this the consumption of data centers, dare we say that we are heading towards extreme consumption that is completely unreasonable!
  • in economic terms: not to mention industrial equipment, it should be noted that all current smartphones will have to be changed; this will constitute an incentive for consumption, with no indication of the future of obsolete smartphones, in particular the rare earths and precious metals they contain, which will probably have to be extracted again.

It should be remembered that:

  • the shorter the waves, the more energy they carry (which is why more energy is needed to produce them);
  • the multiplication of the number of 5G relay antennas is due to the lower diffusion through certain materials. There is an energy loss, the energy “losing on the way” in the material encountered (notably in the form of heat…);

This explains the potentially greater impact on living organisms.