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5G: A Story About Health Risks and Geopolitics

2G. 3G. 4G. The next domino contains the big number 5 with 5G. When it comes to what these mean and what they do, some of us are confused about the technicalities and differences between them, or even what they are. Don’t be afraid, you don’t have to hide behind the “cloud of confusion” any longer. These abbreviations refer to the generation of mobile communication. What sets these networks apart is primarily the speed at which you can surf on your mobile. 3G is slower than 4G. There is also a certain difference in coverage since 3G covers a slightly different surface than 4G. In 2020, 5G will also make its entry, that is: Fifth generation mobile communication. Then you will be able to surf at even higher speeds with your mobile but at what cost? In February, a number of reports from, predominantly Western sources, have come out citing uncertainty over the effects that 5G may have on our lives – primarily when it comes to our health. There is also the added controversy over Chinese efforts in this field but are Western sources concerned in their fight for control of the market and because of geopolitical reasons, or is it really because of these health risks? We don’t have a precise definition of 5G in relation to its applications, but we have a general idea of what it may entail. Let’s start…
With more and more things being connected in the so-called “internet of things” or IoT, this means that much more space will be needed for the different so-called frequency bands to not become overcrowded. Everything from mobiles to refrigerators and other gadgets have already begun to fight for space. The goal of 5G is to be able to handle just that. When the EU presented its vision for 5g last year, it stated, among other things, that the networks should cope with 20 billion human subscribers and over a trillion of IoT gadgets. In addition, the mobile networks must work for terrestrial vehicles at speeds above 500 kilometers per hour and can be used to position a terminal with one meter accuracy. 

You may ask, well.. why isn’t 4G enough to do this? Much of it has to do with speed and connectivity.

The speed of 5g is believed to reach up to 10-20 gigabit / second when the network is at its optimal level of readiness, but above all, considerably more gadgets should be able to be connected at the same time. So far, only frequencies below 6 GHz have been reserved for mobile networks, but in order to maximize the speeds, 5g will claim frequency bands between 6 GHz and 100 GHz. Beyond speed, one of the biggest advantages will be that the latency is significantly reduced. The delay is what makes things that you do on your mobile to be experienced slow, even if you surf the fastest network with the best coverage. 
This all sounds great and all.. but we haven’t reached the uncertainty that scientists are warning about while governments push through legislation. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has, together with his Nordic colleagues, announced that they intend to promote the 5G expansion. Professor Emeritus Rainer Nyberg, Finland and Dr Lennart Hardell, Sweden, sent a letter to Löfven and the other Nordic prime ministers on June 27, 2018. The letter states that 200+ scientists believe that 5G has serious potential consequences for public health and for the environment. The 5G appeal was sent at the same time and the ministers were asked to take this into account in the decision on 5G. The letter warns of serious consequences for public health and the environment, and requests that the 5G extension be stopped until it is shown that 5G does not harm human health and the environment. 
There is no complete research on the health and environmental effects of the increasing radiation from 5G which will lead to the radiation being so high that 5G can hardly be expanded in countries with better protection against health risks than in Sweden, for example Italy, Switzerland, Belgium. Russia. Extensive research shows that already existing radiation from the current system poses significant health risks, including the risk of cancer. 240 scientists have since 2015 signed the EMF Scientist appeal, requesting that protection be strengthened against health risks due to existing technology. 5G is said to lead to an extreme increase in the already existing exposure to microwave radiation which would have wide implications for society.


Swedish expert: Chinese 5G technology comes with risks

Now this is where China comes in and where the information war comes back into spotlight. Several Western countries have banned equipment from the Chinese IT giant Huawei in their upcoming mobile networks. Now, the Swedish government is considering being able to follow through, through a legislative amendment. Gazmend Huskaj is a PhD student in cyber operations and working at the Swedish National Defense College. He bases the risk with Huawei equipment in 5G networks on three things.The Chinese law that states that all citizens are required to support China’s intelligence service. The exposure to the equipment is released into the backbone of the 5G networks and has access to a great deal of information. Huawei equipment that, after British testing, has raised questions about security if placed in critical infrastructure.
– Then it becomes very difficult from a security perspective to say that “we trust you and can absolutely buy equipment that we place in our 5G infrastructure,” says Huskaj [Source: Norran]. “It opens the fact that the intelligence services of foreign power is inside national telecommunications and can intercept everything we say” he continues. The risk also increases for the possibility of physical cyber impact – sabotage of infrastructure – he believes. If the will exists  is another thing. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to Japan that Germany requires guarantees from Huawei that data from the company will never be transferred to Chinese authorities. Only then can Huawei be considered to build German 5G technology. Whether such a guarantee will exist is also another part of the story. 
From a Chinese standpoint, especially together with their new Silk Road project, they are making significant gains in influence – something that Germany and other countries could capitalize on. What about Sweden’s neighbour, Norway? Norway is one of several western countries who are considering banning Huawei’s technology in the country’s 5G network. “One has to pay attention to Huawei as an actor and to the close links that exist between a commercial player like Huawei and the Chinese regime,” said Benedicte Bjørnland, head of the Norwegian security police PST recently. On that note, we should of course not forget the United States that has arguably the biggest concerns here as they’re losing influence in Europe. The United States sees the EU as its most important ally in an effort to prevent Huawei globally from delivering 5G equipment for these same security reasons.
For private individuals, 5G will mean that both computer and mobile will receive faster networks with less delay. In the long run, the wired network is likely to be phased out in favor of wireless technology. The Internet will be available everywhere and more of the gadgets we use in everyday life will be connected. We will live in a future where smart gadgets, cities and social functions become everyday. The development also goes towards both storage and services becoming cloud-based, which places higher demands on the network’s capacity while storage on the hardware, that is, on the computer or in the mobile phone, will be less important. It is currently unclear when 5G will be launched in Sweden and which operators will offer the technology. Some cities and regions are likely to implement the technology faster than others. Among other things, Telia has previously assumed that Stockholm and Tallinn will be early test beds. The next domino falls, but this domino could be the most significant. Time will tell.


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