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Sci Tech    H2'ed 1/24/21

How deep is 5G fake news?

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Smart cities can use existing Internet of Things technologies and do not depend on 5G.
Smart cities can use existing Internet of Things technologies and do not depend on 5G.
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Letter #13

How deep is 5G fake news?

A letter to Greta Thunberg 5G's costs, benefits and myths
by Miguel Coma

Dear Greta,

Here are the questions I live with: Can we trust the mainstream media and social media? Are all peer-reviewed studies published in scientific journals of high quality and independent from industry agendas? Are high-quality videos of statements from famous people always real?

When I ask these questions, I get a clear NO to each one. Actually, I consider few things as undoubtedly true. I consider doubt a foundation of wisdom and science.

In my private life and professional research, I assess information from "totally incorrect" to "undoubtedly true." Between these extremes, I tend to trust information from people who have no conflict of interest. I give more credit to experts with experience and/or academic knowledge. When speaking freely puts a person's career or life at risk, I hear the alarm that something is off. I like to compare different opinions before I make my own. I am suspicious of people who claim to know the truth. Approaching truth takes time and requires patience.

In 2020, researching 5G (the fifth generation of mobile telecommunication networks) led me to discussions with great people. It truly opened my mind. I had to put aside what I learned in engineering school and recognize that technology needs limits. I spotted propaganda (fake news) that promotes the telecom industry. I committed myself to learning alternatives to public 5G networks.

In previous letters, I explained that 5G will not make mobile telecommunications or society "greener." I reported 5G's huge electricity consumption, extraction demands and climate-change impacts. To reduce its environmental impacts significantly, I proposed limiting 5G deployments to privately-owned factories, where it can benefit, rather than as a public network. Today, I want to discuss 5G's benefits and myths, and how we can avoid its environmental impacts.

We should consider 5G's benefits from the perspectives of individuals and businesses. Industry enthusiasts claim that 5G will improve individuals' connections in terms of speed and response time, even with massive numbers of connected devices. Yet, compared to 4G, even major industry players[1] report that 5G will provide customers no substantial improvement.

However, some large manufacturing businesses could benefit from 5G Phase 2 ( technical enhancements. Still in development, these improvements include the Industrial Internet of Things (I-IoT).

I take the mobile industry's stories about 5G's potential for technological revolution with the highest caution. Here is a quick summary of common myths about 5G:

Speed While 5G can deliver speeds above 1000 megabits per second (Mbps), high-quality videoconferencing needs just 0.3 Mbps; high-definition (HD) needs 1.5 Mbps (Click Here). On a mobile device, the highest-perceived image quality can be attained at 1.5 Mbps (Click Here). Netflix recommends 5 Mbps ( for HD streaming on a large screen. Telemedicine (including surgery and medical imaging) can require between less than 2 Mbps ( and 40 Mbps ( The ideal speed for Internet browsing is 8 Mbps (Click Here). For ultra-HD (4K) videos (for very large screens), Netflix recommends 25 Mbps. The need for speed in virtual reality ranges from a few to a few hundred Mbps (Click Here) for extremely immersive future applications. Here's the myth-buster: with over 1000 Mbps (Click Here), the latest 4G technology can provide all of these speeds. Improvements in image compression promised by artificial intelligence (AI) can reduce required speeds even more.

Latency or response time The industry claims that 5G could offer latencies below one millisecond (ms), but roundtrip latency in tele-surgery is already unnoticeable under 300 ms (Click Here). Video streaming requires 25-75 ms (Click Here). Online gaming is set around 50 ms (Click Here). To eliminate the sensation of waiting between pages, Web browsing needs 25-50 ms (Click Here). Again, 4G satisfies these latencies with as little as 30-40 ms (Click Here) in real conditions. Manufacturers that need even lower latencies could install privately-owned (Click Here) 5G Phase 2 networks.

Massive numbers of connected devices While 5G could reach one million connected devices per square kilometre, a combination of different alternative IoT[2] technologies could already connect this many machines.

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Katie Singer writes about nature and technology in Letters to Greta. She spoke about the Internet's footprint in 2018, at the United Nations' Forum on Science, Technology & Innovation, and, in 2019, on a panel with the climatologist Dr. (more...)

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