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Five gee oh gee oh gee! In the annals of history few technologies inspired as much disinformation and confusion as 5G (fifth generation) cellular.

The radio frequency (RF) waves from cell towers, no matter what their frequency, cause no damage to plants or animals, including human animals. Most cellular transmissions fall in what was formerly the top half of the UHF TV spectrum along with various slots above and below. Your home also swarms with radio waves from WiFi, Bluetooth and microwave ovens, not to mention ordinary AM and FM radio and TV. The controversial nature of 5G stems from its use of what’s called “millimeter wavelengths (MmWave)” in the 24-100 GHz range.

What the cellular companies fail to publicize is that most 5G cellular uses lower wavelengths closer to, or in the current cellular frequency spectrum which ranges up to about 5.2 GHz. If 5G used exclusively MmWave it would be a flop.

The MmWave about which so many uninformed people spread so much disinformation offers one great advantage and one huge disadvantage. That part of the relatively unused RF spectrum permits sending copious amounts of data extremely rapidly because of the ultra-short wave lengths and large amount of bandwidth.

Thus, it can offer fiber-quality internet without physical connection. Conversely, these ultra-short waves cover less than a mile and cannot penetrate objects. Rain, fog and snow block MmWaves. They cannot penetrate your skin or even pass through leaves of a tree. In other words, MmWaves, weaklings of the RF world, cause no organic damage.

They neither cause cancer nor propagate viruses. The cell companies use this spectrum for direct line-of-sight high performance cellular. For example, if a cell provider located a small 5G MmWave tower in the middle of the UI Quad, only phones near windows facing the Quad would receive service.

If you faced out to Wright or Mathews, you would receive no signal. If you picnicked on the Quad a few dozen feet from the tower no harm would come to you.

While most communities desire the stability and speed of fiber internet service directly into their homes, that requires trenching and disturbing lawns. Verizon circumvents this by providing direct-to-home 5G service in some communities. That still requires trenching the trunk fiber cable to the front or back of your home and then placing a small 5G MmWave transmitter on a post.

This saves Verizon the trouble and expense of trenching all the way to the network box attached to your house. At the same time, this wireless system only works if your cellular receiver faces that tiny transmitter. In a blizzard you’d probably lose service.

In general, 5G substantially improves on 4G performance based on the lower frequencies that reach greater distances and penetrate buildings. This performance comes nowhere near the loud proclamations of remarkable 5G performance which use the MmWave bands.

As far as phone handsets, 5G remains unready for prime time. Many so-called 5G phones lack MmWave capability. Each cellular provider (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile) deploys their 5G MmWave services differently. Further, the company that makes the chips, Qualcomm, offers the phone manufacturers different options for 5G phones.

There are single chip and dual chip solutions that affect performance and battery life. A 5G phone usually suffers shorter battery life than a similar 4G phone.

Qualcomm and the phone manufacturers will resolve most of these issues by next spring. Cellular providers also should resolve transmission difficulties by then.

The now completed TV station great channel reassignment finally opened swaths of new lower frequencies for cellular use. These are more conventional longer wavelength frequency bands than MmWave.

To reiterate, natural daily occurrences, such as radon seepage from the earth, cause far more health risk than 5G MmWaves. Drinking alcohol, vaping, smoking and other chosen injurious behaviors threaten your health, not radio waves from a cell tower.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at