ICT VIEWPOINT

Distancing 5G From COVID-19 Pandemic

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5G is not designed to generate emissions at a level that would be harmful to humans and if 5G were linked to the coronavirus pandemic, locations without 5G such as Nigeria would not be reporting these cases of COVID-19, argues PROFESSOR FRANCIS IDACHABA.

5G as is currently being tested is either at sub 6GHz frequency or above 6GHz with 24GHz being a viable candidate by the international Telecommunications Union(ITU). This is why there has been a lot of work being undertaken to refarm some TV spectrum and older Telecom spectrum.

 For the proposals at higher frequencies, the cell sites will be small due to the high attenuation which the high frequencies face when transmitted through the atmosphere. 

This small cell size and high attenuation means that to fully deploy 5G, operators will have to spend a lot more money to cover a given area, as more cells are required and will also have to deactivate their existing legacy systems, if they want to switch fully to 5G. 

Users would also have to change phones as our current phones are designed for specific frequency bands and modulation schemes. None of these have happened yet as very few countries have deployed 5G. 

The issue of radiation is also unfounded as if the transmit power of the base transmitter stations ( BTS) is increased tremendously to overcome the pathloss and increase the size of the cells, the transmit power also of the mobile users would have to be Increased tremendously to ensure a 2-way communication is achieved. This will mean returning us back to bulky and heavy phones as the transmit power relies heavily on battery power.. . That also is not the case as we are all still using the same phones and Nigeria has not deployed 5G yet, so the assumption that 5G is responsible, is not correct. 

All these, coupled with the fact that mobile devices have very strict emission controls and the uneconomic utilization of very and unrealistic  high power BTS, makes it difficult for 5G to be a culprit. If the use case of 5G is for backhaul links, then, the antennas would be point-to-point and the towers would be very high to provide for the required fresnel clearance in which case, the radiations would not reach the level where human beings are. 

Having said this, 5G as it is, is not designed to generate emissions at a level that would be harmful to humans and if 5G were the culprit, locations without 5G such as Nigeria would not be reporting this cases of COVID-19. 

  • Prof. Francis Idachaba, is a professor of communications engineering at Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, south west, Nigeria.

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