In September of 2022, the Solihull Council rejected plans for an additional cell tower to boost 5G performance on the corners of Monkspath Hall Road and Charterhouse Drive.
With the argument that the mast would be ugly, unnecessary, and potentially unhealthy, the council ultimately decided that it was up to telecom companies to share existing cell masts in the area.
While 5G coverage in and around most of Solihull has grown consistently since this decision, there remains sentiment that 5G might not be worth chasing. So, what real changes does 5G offer that the residents of Solihull might be missing?
To start with the elephant in the room, there are statistically and scientifically no health risks with 5G implementation, other than through psychosomatic effects. The theory that radio waves are harmful has been around since they were first transmitted thanks to a pseudoscientific idea called electromagnetic hypersensitivity. In reality, no controlled tests have ever shown that electromagnetic hypersensitivity exists, and that cell towers of any generation cause it.
In fact, residents in one South African community called Craigavon once raised issues with a 3G cell tower causing health issues back in 2009. Ostensible problems included rashes, headaches, tinnitus, disrupted sleep, and gastric imbalances. Residents called for the tower to be turned off, only to learn that it hadn’t been active for six weeks when they claimed illness flaring up via proximity to the transmitter.
“Mid Kent Shopping Centre Maidstone. New” (Public Domain) by JOHN K THORNE
The Speed and User Improvements
The advantages of 5G are supposed to come from its ability to deliver higher speeds and more active simultaneous users, but these advantages might not be all they’re cracked up to be. In terms of active users, 5G boasts the ability to accept up to a million devices per tower. While this is a 10x boost over 4G, it also comes with the caveat that 5G towers have a range of about 1,000 feet. Solihull also has a population of 126,000 per the 2021 census, so getting nearly the entire town within 1,000 feet of a single tower is unlikely.
Speed advantages of 5G provide 5G systems with the capacity for far greater bandwidth (the amount of data sent and received per second) and lower latency (how long it takes a signal to travel somewhere and back). Latency improvements will be slight with 5G, but bandwidth increases can reach over ten times the amount of existing 4G systems. While again impressive, these advantages still aren’t of significant use. The most demanding use most people place on their internet would be streaming 4K video, where latency doesn’t matter and only around 35 Mbps of bandwidth is required. 4G already offers over 100 Mbps in bandwidth, so up to 1Gbps in 5G would be overkill.
For many users on the go, streamlined web games like bingo are the most popular forms of entertainment they turn to. Titles like Cash Cubes and Flash Bingo again require little in the way of latency, with bandwidth requirements so low they could run just fine on 3G. Were it possible to share one mobile 5G connection openly, hundreds of users could play through this connection point. Testament to how far we’ve come, but not exactly a realistic situation no matter how popular online bingo is.
“SKTelecom 5G” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by TheBetterDay
With all this in mind, you might be asking why make a move to 5G in Solihull at all? Basically, the answer is that this move finally gets us ahead of the curve of internet demands. Demands on internet speeds are always growing, and coming technologies like self-driving vehicles can rely on 5G for safety and accuracy. 5G provides unprecedented overhead, giving us the opportunity to experience the internet without loading while giving new systems more room to explore. As long as 5G can be implemented in a way that doesn’t hurt Solihull’s beauty, we struggle to see any downsides.
Written by Bethany Baker