Thursday, January 16, 2020

Rogers rolls out 5G tech - where is the opposition?

As Rogers Communications announces its initial rollout of its 5G network in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver, I'm still surprised at just how little opposition there is to 5G.
Apparently there is some opposition, but this is almost all on health grounds (or in some cases aesthetic grounds!), and the tech companies just respond that there is as yet no scientific evidence that the millimetre (and close-to-millimetre) wave radio waves present a danger to human health, although it should be noted that this is not at all the same thing as saying that there is definitely no risk from the technology, new as it is.
As I have already argued elsewhere in more detail, my opposition is more on grounds of economics and need. 5G networks would require an unprecedented investment by tech companies in new infrastructure - all those thousands of new cell towers are expensive, even if they are smaller than the current 4G ones - and you have to know that it will be us schmucks who will end up paying for it, not Rogers, BCE and Telus, whether we use the new facilities or not. Plus, we'd also need to buy new phones in order to use it anyway!
Moreover, the improvements in service will be marginal at best, and we probably won't even notice the difference. This is because the superfast service that has all the technophiles salivating would require millimetre wave technology that even the aficionados admit would require boosters on literally every street corner, and even then would be prone to interruptions and blockages from every tree, building and passing bus. And do you really think that reducing transmission latency from 100 milliseconds to 1 millisecond is going to change your life?
Rogers have apparently opted for the mid-range 2.5 GHz spectrum for now, which is expected to offer users speeds "a little bit better than they have at 4G", while many US cities are using even more conservative spectrums in the 600-800 MHz range, which offers very little advantage over 4G networks. Rogers say they will probably also gravitate towards the 600 MHz spectrum later this year, as this will carry wireless data across longer distances and through denser urban areas. Net result? Next to no difference in service, big investment.
Rogers has chosen to use Swedish supplier Eriksson for its 5G network equipment in order to avoid the contention of using Chinese company Huawei, which the Canadian government has not yet decided to allow (for security reasons). BCE and Telus have made no secret of the fact that they would prefer to use the cheaper Huawei, but how long will they wait to find out whether they will be allowed?
And anyway, why do we even need faster service in the street? Remember, we are not talking here about wifi in homes and offices, which is where most of out internet usage takes place, but service out in the street, outside of wi-fi. When was the last time you felt the need for a faster connection while making a phone call or checking emails in a taxi?
To my mind, this is a prime example of technology for technology's sake - we have it so we'll use it, even if we don't actually need it - otherwise known as the tail wagging the dog. But also, these decisions are being made without anyone asking us consumers whether or not we want them. Come on people, where's the opposition?

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