The purpose of this article is to draw awareness surrounding mmWave technology that is being deployed as part of the 5G mobile standard. This is not be confused with 5GHz or “Five Gigahertz” which is sometimes shortened as “5G” also. Specifically this article will discuss the latest evolution of Mobile Phone technology known as 5G (Fifth Generation) relative to previous iterations (2G/3G/4G LTE). I will be referencing definitions provided by 5G Americas, a group that advocates and provides standards on behalf of the mobile industry.
Previous evolutions of mobile phone technology (2G/3G/4G LTE) mostly utilized the Ultra High Frequency or UHF Band which falls between 300-3000 MHz. UHF is useful for covering large areas, towns, highways for what is referred to as ‘macrocell coverage’. A key function and selling-point of 5G technology is ‘pencil-beam signal focus’ or the ability to provide coverage to a much smaller and specific area. Think of it like comparing a flood light to a laser beam. UHF is similar to the flood light, covering everything. The laser beam focuses on one specific ‘dot-like’ point. mmWave falls within the EHF or Extremely High Frequency band defined as 30-300 GHz. With smart antennas it can generate a “pencil-beam” focused signal to any target device or person. The potential abuse of mmWave or millimeter wave bands being rolled out as ‘small cells‘ and nodes in public spaces and residential areas is far more concerning due to these propagation characteristics compared to UHF. There is reason to be concerned.