Some people are still worried about the safety of 5G

5G in City

With all the current 5G hype within the industry it’s easy to forget that not everyone is as excited about the new generation of mobile technology as those that are rolling it out.

Thankfully, last year’s incidences of 5G mast burning appear to have become a thing of the past – in the UK at least, although there are local press reports about a mast fire in Essex just last night – but people are still demonstrating their concerns over the tech in more subtle ways.

New online search data shows that in certain global markets significant numbers of consumers are asking Google to allay their concerns over the safety of 5G. And the UK is right up there.

A new study published by software testing services provider Prolifics Testing shows that the US is the most sceptical nation in absolute terms when it comes to 5G, recording an average of 374,700 searches per month relating to the perceived negative aspects of the technology. The UK comes in second, with 93,400. However, when the numbers are reworked to account for relative population sizes the UK finds itself at the top of the pile with 1,415 negative 5G searches per 1 million population, followed by Australia with 1,318 and the US in third place with 1,142.

Using online analytics tool Ahrefs, Prolifics Testing looked at consistently recurring Google searches on 5G (well, someone had to…or did they?). This covered questions about whether the technology is safe, is dangerous, poses a health risk, causes and/or spreads Covid-19, and so forth.

As the chart shows, there are many markets out there where consumers are less suspicious of 5G. There is moderate scepticism in Africa, with the major economies of South Africa and Nigeria making the top 20, although the latter ranks much lower when size of population is taken into account. Mexico also ranks fairly highly essentially by virtue of having a lot of people, while many major European countries are asking a lot of questions about the technology.

In all, Prolifics Testing analysed 5G search data in 155 countries across six continents.

Even in the markets topping the list, the actual number of people with niggling doubts about 5G is not that high. However, it is something that telecoms operators should keep an eye on, particularly in light of further search data analysed by Prolifics Testing.

The question ‘what is 5G?’ is typed into Google on average 127,400 times per month in the US; 24,200 times in the UK; and 15,100 times in third-placed Canada.

Again, these are not big numbers. But assuming that the same people are not repeatedly asking that same question over a period of several months, it starts to add up to quite a few people who are aware of 5G without understanding it. On a related note, the simple search term ‘5G’ came up 314,000 times per month in the US, 130,900 in Poland, and 120,000 times in the UK.

“We suspect users searching for this term will either be finding out more about the technology, learning about the benefits, or generally researching potential risks as a result of misinformation spread online,”  Prolifics Testing said in its report.

This is starting to add up to some extra work for telcos’ PR and marketing departments, it appears.

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  1. Avatar Professor Peter Curwen 03/03/2021 @ 5:15 pm

    Well, the only countries in Africa where they are going to express concern are the ones where they might end up with a patchy 5G, so firstly South Africa then Nigeria makes sense. One must also face the fact that almost no-one knows the difference between LTE (4G) and 5G – but then again not many know anything about LTE – other than that downloads speed up. And worry over frying your brains goes back as far as 3G without any real resolution so it is bound to still be hanging around, with the added concern that the higher the tech the more likely your brain will explode.

    • Avatar Ted 04/03/2021 @ 2:16 pm

      Why do you say countries in Africa might end up with “patchy 5G”?

    • Avatar Bertus Ehmke 05/03/2021 @ 7:49 am

      I daily deal with concerns around 5G safety. People send me endless reports they download from very dodgy sources. Most of these are not specific to 5G but old EMF fears, being propped up in terms of relevance with one or two references to 5G at most. Simply put, once you start unpacking the various incremental evolutionary aspect around 5G, most prophets of doom become very uneasy and cannot really talk along any longer. Firstly lets consider frequency – most of the conspiracy crowd are pointing to the extremely high frequencies that 5G always uses – they also throw Active Denial Systems operating at 95GHz into the mix to prove how 5G is “weaponized” The reality is that of the 45 odd bands used/useful for 5G, about 40 were used for 2/3/4G for years already. The most often used band is 3.5GHz. This is in fact lower in frequency than the dual band Wi-Fi router most people have at home. It was used for WiMAX as far back as 2005. Secondly the modulation schemes in 5G are much more sophisticated. Whereas 4G would mostly go up to 64QAM, 5G copes very well with 256QAM and we will in future see 1024QAM. This has absolutely no health effect – it is pure mathematics brought about by faster computing (Moore’s Law loosely applies here). Thirdly we use much wider channels for 5G and one may think that if the same PSD applies the collective power transmitted will be higher. However battery consumption is one of the primary considerations in such wide bands. 5G uses about 90% less energy per bit compared to 4G. Lastly we have vastly better antenna technology which does beamforming to steer the signal to the active user. Having a signal focused at your device or even remotely near to you makes people uneasy but then it needs to be pointed out that the duty cycle of this focused beam now results in effectively much lower received EMF compared to receiving a unfocussed signal 100% of the time. When you have addressed the various building blocks of 5G in this manner I have found that the majority of concerns become far more palatable.

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