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STALEMATE

The debate around 5G’s safety is getting in the way of science

A person looking at their cell phone while they walk on the twilight beach.
Reuters/Carlo Allegri
Marching into the unknown.
  • Katherine Ellen Foley
By Katherine Ellen Foley

Health and science reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Every decade or so, like clockwork, a new technology comes along that changes the way we use our phones. And now, imminently, that technology is 5G.

Carrier companies are racing to get out devices that will work on 5G, which will solve the buffering and lagging data transmission woes of 4G LTE. While those current networks use frequencies of about 400 MHz to 3GHz (pdf), 5G will allow cell service to operate on slightly shorter waves, with frequencies ranging from 3 GHz to 6 GHz. It will also incorporate even shorter waves, called millimeter waves, with frequencies of 24GHz to 52 GHz. Endlessly spinning loading wheels will be a thing of the past.

But not everyone is thrilled about the deployment of 5G, or even existing cell phone technology. A small yet vocal cadre of scientists believe that the radio waves used for cellular communication are not just understudied, but potentially a threat to human health.

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