5G and COVID: Trying to understand the facts

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I am not a research scientist. I wrote this article to try to explain things the best I can. If you want to refute what I’ve written, leave comments below. I’m listening.

It’s a rumor that just won’t go away. Somehow, people believe that the rollout of 5G cellular either caused or contributed to the rise of COVID-19, the disease that’s defined life in 2020. This is a rumor that you’ll hear over and over again, and I understand why it’s appealing. The problem is, as far as I see, it’s just not true.

How this rumor got started

In the early days of COVID-19, the disease was limited to very densely populated areas. And, as it turns out, so was 5G. The 5G rollout in this country began in the country’s largest cities: Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco New York. So, an early map of COVID cases looked a lot like a map of 5G coverage.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a map of COVID cases in April, 2020. It’s not. It’s a map of population density, plain and simple. But, people noticed that where the 5G was, the COVID was too. But that’s not surprising. It also looks a lot like the map of Pizza Hut locations or Starbucks locations. Anytime there’s more population, there’s going to be more of the things that center around large populations.

Confusion with X rays

I’ve told you before that cell signals are a form of radiation. So are TV signals. So is visible light. It’s all radiation. And so the argument goes, X-rays are radiation and they can hurt you. UV light is radiation and it can hurt you. Gamma rays are radiation and they can turn you into the Incredible Hulk. So all radiation is bad. The difference is the frequency.

X-rays are at a frequency of 30 petahertz (30,000,000 gigahertz) and higher. UV light is higher than that at about 500-700 petahertz. Cell signals are between .6 gigahertz and 30 gigahertz. The frequency has a lot to do with how it interacts with living tissue. To date, I’ve found no reputable study that claims that cellular radio signals are as harmful as X rays or UV rays.

The intensity is an issue

You also have to realize the intensity of the radiation is an issue. A sunny day is bombarding you with incredible amounts of radiation. An X-ray machine can be putting out as little as 18 watts but commonly more like 1,000 watts.

Cell signals originating from your phone are about .5 watts. The ones you receiver are weaker than that. They start out stronger but because of the rule of squares,  they are already very weak by the time they’re even 10 feet from the tower. A mile from the tower they are fractions of a watt.

Keep in mind that the strongest cell signal you’re likely to be near is about one-quarter of the power of the weakest night light. Night lights are more likely to put off UV rays unintentionally, so they are much more dangerous than cell signals. Yet no one worries about night lights

Here’s the bottom line though

5G is a new technology, and some 5G signals will be delivered in the millimeter wave band. At 28GHz, that’s pretty high frequency. But those implementations will be used in small areas, not all over the country. There are still a lot of challenges to millimeter-wave 5G. Today’s 5G uses the same signal ranges as regular 4G/LTE service: 600-2100MHz. These frequencies have been used for decades for television, radio, and other signals. They aren’t new. 5G is just a set of technologies that lets you use them differently.

It wouldn’t make sense for these frequencies to all of a sudden be harmful when they weren’t harmful before

5G and COVID: the bottom line

I’ll admit that there are a lot of things I don’t know. There’s a lot to this world that is still unknown to all of us. But there’s no data, no information at all that suggests that a life-threatening illness could have anything to do with radio waves. There’s no evidence that radio broadcasts of the sort we’ve used since the mid-20th-century could all of a sudden be used in this way. There are so many other explanations for how a disease could spread that you don’t need to bring radio waves into it.

As I said at the beginning of this article, I’m not a doctor and I’m sure you can find a lot more dry scientific information proving my point. But even with my fairly limited information, I can’t see a link between COVID and 5G. They’re just two things that are happening this year independent of each other.

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About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.