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Do we need to talk about 5G?

In case you missed it, things are gearing up towards the advent of ‘5G’ technology. By that, I mean next generation wireless networks that will change our lives, one way of another.

As we know, the world has developed an insatiable desire for everything mobile. We're consuming more data every year, especially in the form of video and music streaming apps.

Existing bandwidths are becoming choked, causing serious angst as people in the same area all try to access online services at the same time.

Fifth generation technology is designed to handle thousands of devices simultaneously. It also boosts connectivity significantly.

Installing this new capability is an expensive commercial step. So it’s no surprise that the Swansea Bay City Deal includes a Digital Infrastructure project to help stimulate private sector investment.

The project covers all four counties within the region where the big challenge is going to be installing adequate coverage for a predominantly rural geography – but that’s another story.

A business case is currently under development and there is some encouraging progress, according to lead partner, Carmarthenshire council.

Yet it seems that not everyone is delighted about faster data, wider coverage and more stable connections.

5G utilises clusters of smaller phone masts closer to the ground which send so-called "millimetre waves" back and forth between a larger number of transmitters and receivers. The issue, according to concerned groups, is that no-one has worked out the long term effect of the dense electromagnetic fields that this will allegedly create.

Gower MP Tonia Antoniazzi recently questioned whether enough research had gone into evaluating the pervasive long-term impact.

Although her comments at a Westminster Hall debate prompted predictable ‘junk-science’ jibes from technocrat sources, the exchanges between MPs highlighted that anxieties need to be allayed.

The telecoms industry has already responded by saying that the smaller 5G receivers actually emit weaker signals with far less energy consumption. They contend that this means there is no ‘density’ effect as such.

But while concerns persist, and given that the City Deal project is still at the development stage, maybe this is the right time for some community engagement with a wider conversation about the proposals.


Our infrastructure needs weather-proofing

It really does annoy me how we’ve become so used to travel disruption caused by ‘adverse weather conditions’. It’s almost as if an inability to get from A to B is an unavoidable seasonal thing. Shouldn’t we be questioning instead why it is that entire networks go awry whenever the temperature strays a few degrees from the average?

Weather ‘extremes’ are becoming the norm. It doesn’t matter if you’re a climate change denier or not; we’ve all got somewhere to go and there should be more effective ways of keeping the wheels turning.

Other countries cope well enough with snowfall and summer heat. Could it be that’s because those nations are far less obsessed with having cost-driven capitalism to underpin their infrastructure spending and actually regard transport systems as a public service.

We used to have the same outlook at one time. Maybe going back to the 1970’s wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.

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