5G has a lot of moving pieces in Minnesota and beyond

Gov Tech outlines the “messy” rollout of 5G in Minnesota

The telecom industry is once again advancing the capacity and speed of its networks, something it has done once a decade since the cellphone’s invention in 1979. But differently from the previous jumps, the move to the fifth generation of network technology, simply called 5G, is caught up in geopolitical and health debates that are beyond the industry’s control.

The result is far more noise and confusion about the promise and perils of 5G, with the upgrade carrying greater than usual risk for companies and head-scratching choices for consumers.

The cells are there, the phones are not…

For the first time, Minnesota is in the middle of the action at the start of a generational change in telecom. Verizon, the nation’s largest cellphone service provider, has already put up 5G cells in the downtowns of both Minneapolis and St. Paul. And U.S. Bank Stadium is one of 13 around the NFL this year that will have 5G antennas beaming data to fans.

But it’s a chicken-and-egg business, with carriers doing just part of the work. Cellphone makers have to produce new phones that work on the new networks. At the moment, Twin Cities shoppers can get one 5G Samsung smartphone, at around $1,300, or modify a Motorola one with a special 5G attachment that costs $200.

It looks like there are two options – short range, super fast or mid-range…

And there’s a technical issue that shapes performance. Many 5G networks will use a portion of the radio spectrum where waves move at greater frequency. Those waves will have the most speed improvement, but they travel a shorter distance and can be blocked by walls and even trees. As a result, carriers must put up more antennas to send and receive them. Verizon and AT&T are using the higher-frequency technology, known as millimeter wave.

But T-Mobile appears likely to create a 5G network in a part of the spectrum where waves travel at what are known as mid-frequency rates. Its network may not be as speedy, but its signals may travel farther and contend with less interference.

There are concerns about health…

“There’s a great deal to be said for the speed of 5G when it’s wired and safe from any impact on the environment and public health,” she said. “More research needs to be done on how to make 5G safe in the ambient environment.”

This entry was posted in MN, Vendors, Wireless by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s