The wireless network has become an indispensable part of our society, the 5th generation will soon be implemented. The implementation of the 5G network in the Netherlands is planned in Amsterdam by 2020, and from 2025 onwards all European cities have to be covered according to the Dutch news provider.
What does 5G actually entail? Technically speaking, 5G enables a much faster connection (up until 20 Gbps, which means 20 times faster Wi-Fi and 30 times faster data) and it used a much bigger bandwidth of the mobile broadband, which will generate a bigger capacity and coverage for all network-users. Next to providing the possibility of using the wireless network with a massively increased speed, the 5G network will also enable the following possibilities:
- Internet of things, e.g., smart heating-systems, self-ordering fridges, etc.
- Self-driving cars
- Smart cities, e.g., parking lots with sensors or automatic streetlamps
- Industrialized automation, e.g., scheduling maintenance from a distance
- Voice commands via devices such as Siri, Alexa and Google
For 5G internet many more, but smaller antennas are needed than for 4G. Volkskrant says that to cover an entire city with internet, an antenna is needed on every corner of the street.
When reading into the literature (both academic, peer reviewed sources, newspaper articles and websites of pro-5G stakeholders), it becomes clear that 5G is mainly presented as economically profitable, firstly because of the insane number of new products that can be brought onto the market or other uses of products that can be optimized, but also because it is said to be more energy efficient than 4G networks. T-mobile for example emphasizes that industrialized automation will save a lot of costs that are a result of current inefficiencies in the production process of many products and services.
However, what remains undiscussed in these sources, are the negative externalities. For example:
- Energy costs: even though 5G uses less energy per operation, the overall use of internet will increase, because more devices will be connected to the wireless system. Next to this, 5G requires the production of new devices and infrastructure to replace 4G devices and systems, increasing energy consumption and CO2 emissions [pdf].
- Impact of radiation on mental health: it is argued that the addition of the high frequency 5G radiation to an already complex mix of lower frequencies (prior generations), will contribute to a negative public health outcome. It is stressed that the effects are still too unclear to draw any long-term conclusions. Additionally, the effects are hard to measure, since there is no control group anymore (everyone is exposed to the radiation). It is emphasized that these effects need to be studied before 5G is brought to the market
- Lastly, the current generation of wireless connection, is already proven to negatively impact mental health, when assessing the impact of smartphone and social media use. The question arises if this would increase with the introduction to 5G.
Bottom line: For my essay I want to research the costs of these externalities and compare them to the economic benefits of the implementation of the 5G network.
* Please help my Environmental Economics students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice :).