5G Networks and Possible Impacts on Human Rights

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Today, mobile networks service providers use the most advanced technologies to provide the best services for cellular network service subscribers. 5G is the fifth-generation cellular network technology that allows users to gain more advantages while using the Internet. It can hit speeds upwards of 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps) and uses technology like beamforming and massive MIMO (Multiple-Input Multiple-Output) to deliver wireless signals with less interference and more efficiency.

The recent growth is evident as 5G is fast replacing 4G networks in different parts of the world. It has been said to speedily cater to the needs of smartphone users when they want to have access to the Internet, and the network benefits individuals and developers who deploy applications faster. Essentially, it provides a new network to connect virtually everyone and everything together, including machines, databases, and devices, at a high-speed rate. Hence, the need for 5G networks to accommodate the requirement of high-speed mobile broadband.

Even more, the new connectivity uses a 5G New Radio interface, along with other technologies, that utilizes much higher radio frequencies (28 GHz compared to 700 MHz – 2500 MHz for 4G) for data transmission over the Internet for faster speeds, abridged congestion, and lower latency. At the same time, some researchers and analysts suggest that the existing 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology is sufficient for most IoT (Internet of Things) use cases. Others arguably posit that only with high-speed, high-capacity, low-latency will 5G broadband networks meet the demands of increasing data-intensive applications. Moreover, 5G will support the massive numbers of devices that will simultaneously access the web, far more than 4G LTE can handle. As 5G enabled IoT applications, like health care, education, self-driven cars, and virtual appliances, they must operate as anticipated, without failure at any time.

Additionally, 5G will determine whether or not mobile-dependent users fully partake in the global digital economy. Especially as smartphones, cell phones, and other wireless-enabled devices become the only gateway to the Internet for specific populations, a faster and uninterruptible internet connection is needed. With so many enticing prospects, this begs to answer whether or not there are some inherent risks involved and how it affects human rights. But before going into that, it will be essential to look at some salient issues.

What are the 5G networks, and what are the possibilities and opportunities it provides?

The 5G network is the fifth generation of wireless networks and technology that improves data speed, volume, and ultra-low latency over fourth-generation (4G and 4G LTE) networks. Historical shifts between wireless generations have shown that countries who adopt wireless networks as they advance in their usage gain more revenue and job creation for technocrats. The use of 5G increases economic opportunity through improved easy access to health services (for instance, an appointment with a doctor can be quickly booked online without visiting the hospital), transportation services, education, and social services.

It enables a host of new technologies that will change the standard of public and private sector operations, from a range of using autonomous vehicles to smart cities operating functionally utilizing the Internet, virtual reality, and networks. Moreover, various governments support digital infrastructure innovation by enacting laws suitable for and granting incentives like pioneer status for these novel digital innovations igniting its growth.

Businesses can take advantage of the high-speed 5G can create, extensive machine-to-machine communications, innovations in artificial intelligence, large-scale IoT, and a data rate multiple times faster than the previous generations of wireless networks. At the barest minimum, 5G network will support around one million devices in every square kilometer, connecting them to the Internet simultaneously. This function will revolutionize the growing IoT, helping anything get online, promoting online businesses, healthcare services, and infrastructures such as traffic lights, parcel deliveries, and warehousing.

In fact, It’s been predicted that 5G will be the synergy linking humans and machines together on an unquantifiable scale for new business and thereby bring about an increase in economic opportunities. To buttress this point, a report made by industry analysts IHS Markit gave an estimate that 5G will allow $12.3 trillion of global economic output in 2035. However, an International Data Corporation (IDC) study estimates that the amount of data created, captured, and replicated worldwide could grow from 33 Zettabytes (ZB) in 2018 to 175 ZB by 2025.

With the recent trend, it will be trite to say that the development of genuinely haptic systems – where tactile perception or experience can be shared live. So that remote operators of robotics can ‘feel’ and ‘touch’ through a machine despite being thousands of miles away and this could be used in factories, mines, or even for remote surgery.

A network as fast and reliable will ensure that industries free their environments from ‘cabled systems’ for network connectivity to ‘cableless’ technology that enable fast, flexible, and automatic operations and with the end goal to reduce cost and increase productivity.

For instance, at Sweden’s Boliden Aitik mine, 5G-enabled automation is used for mine drilling and blasting. This has reduced costs by a percent, saving the company about €2.5 million annually. While manufacturers can achieve an average percent productivity gains, resulting in millions of pounds in savings, from more flexible and better-managed production lines via 5G-powered wireless factories, according to research by the Worcestershire 5G Consortium, the possibilities are immeasurable.

Even more, in developing nations, one of the positive impacts of 5G technologies will be creating a smarter transportation system that would reduce road accidents. According to the World Health Organization, about 90 percent of the global fatalities on roads happen in low and middle-income nations. 5G technologies will provide technologies like sensors among other things to help curb accidents. It will also provide a new model of learning through smart learning. Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Virtual Presence will create a visual and interactive learning experience for the students as well as the teachers. Not to forget water management and agriculture that would be provided by 5G technology to ensure that water is used appropriately and plants yield the right produce.

What is the difference between the 5G networks and the 4G networks?

The smartness behind using telecommunication devices, electronic devices, or artificial intelligence is cellular networks that connect these devices to the Internet. Its beauty is how fast you can access information whenever you want to. Every decade the cellular industry performs a significant upgrade to its wireless infrastructure. In the 2000s, what was dominating was the 3G network, while 4G came in the last decade. The 5G network modifies the 4G and 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE). The significant difference between the 5G and 4G networks will be examined using speed, capacity, latency, bandwidth, and reliability.


Yes, 5G is said to be faster than 4G, so what makes the difference in speed? 5G is predicted to be near 100 times more instantaneous with a theoretical speed of about 20 Gbps and existing, real-world speeds starting at 50 Mbps to 3 Gbps. While 4G can reach top speeds of up to 100 Mbps, real-world performance is generally no more than 35 Mbps. There are three primary types of 5G, and every one has its speed. The low-band 5G is slightly faster than 4G with around 50-250 Mbps performance. The fastest form of 5G, known as the high-band 5G, is the type that reaches 3 Gbps.

Another sort of mobile network would not be new on the off chance that it wasn’t, here and there, in a general sense, diverse from the existing ones. One primary difference is 5 G’s unique radio frequencies to achieve what 4G networks cannot. 5G operates on different radio spectrum frequencies using separate antennas, enabling connections to many more devices to the Internet, minimizing delays, and delivering ultrafast speeds. The radio spectrum is divided into bands, with unique features as you progress into higher frequencies. 4G uses frequencies below 6 GHz, while some 5G networks use higher frequencies, around 30 GHz or more. These high frequencies are significant for several reasons. The most notable is that they support a massive bandwidth for fast data processing. In addition to the fact that they are less clustered with existing cell data, this can be utilized in the future for expanding transmission capacity requests. Still, on the other hand, they’re exceptionally directional. They can be used close to other remote signals without causing impedance.

This is distinctive from 4G towers that fire data in all directions, potentially wasting energy and power to beam radio waves at towers that do not even request internet access. 5G also uses shorter wavelengths, such that antennas can be much smaller than existing antennas while still providing precise directional control. Since one base station can utilize even more directional antennas, it means that 5G can support over 1,000 more devices per meter than what’s supported by 4G. This simply means that 5G networks can broadcast ultrafast data to a lot more users, with high precision and little latency than 4G networks.


Due to the increase in speed, 5G adds more capacity and space to use, meaning that there’s more access to everyone’s devices getting higher data speeds without the issue of data traffic.

This is essential because data traffic grows at about 60% per year. People use the Internet more often for minor things such as getting directions, streaming more videos, and using more connected services. 5G was intended to provide further connectivity to web-based media, video real-time, and different things we are now doing today. Yet, in addition to new creative use cases like safely streaming high-quality video from a rescue vehicle to the emergency unit and empowering a scope of new kinds of smart tech and industry digitalization.


Latency is the suspension before data transfer starts following an instruction for its transfer or the time taken for a data packet to go from one place to another. Lowering latency is an essential part of building a good user experience, and this is what the 5G network intends to achieve. 4G networks latency is currently about 50 milliseconds, while 5G networks are expected to shrink to an impressive 1 millisecond. 5G has lower latency than 4G, efficiently supporting new applications such as AI, IoT, and virtual reality.


5G is relied upon to have fundamentally more transfer speed, or limit, than 4G too. This is because 5G will increase considerably more productive utilization of the accessible spectrum. 4G utilizes a tight cut of the accessible spectrum ranging between 600 MHz to 2.5 GHz, while most commercial 5G networks rely on the spectrum in the 3.5 GHz range (3.3 GHz – 4.2 GHz). 5G will provide different applications and use cases for customers, organizations, and businesses as a whole. That implies there’s a considerably higher bandwidth on 5G. It is relevant to note that an expanded transfer speed indicates greater adaptability and potential outcomes to accomplish quicker than expected. This upholds faster connections and more gadgets and means that more individuals can connect with the Internet inside a provided network.

What are the problems and negative effects of 5G networks?

One of the problems associated with 5G networks is the issue of short-range coverage and, to an extent, reliability. 5G is simply getting everything rolling, so its reach is basically non-existent outside of a small bunch of significant urban communities. 5G will require quite a long while to arrive at a degree of inclusion similar to 4G, and it will have various implementations (high-, medium-, and low-band 5G), all with their speed and transmission capacity. Therefore coverage is limited and often only offers solid performance in certain parts of town. It’s plausible that for a really long time, even after 5G-empowered gadgets become all the more generally embraced, people will utilize a blend of 4G and 5G. Whenever you’re near a 5G tower, your device will interface and access the fast speeds. At the point when you’re not, your device will return to running on 4G, hence the reliability issue. Irrespective of the tremendous speeds and capacity and low latency,  5G relies on a high-band spectrum. But the high-band range, with its negligible coverage areas, is not very reliable. Moreso, in cities where carriers say they have deployed 5G, staying connected to the network can be challenging.

Based on the research of 5G works which uses higher frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum. Its frequencies range between 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) to several tens of GHz. It also uses beamforming – this sends data directly to devices. Also, a difference from previous generations that sent signals in all directions. It has been suggested that by adding this additional high-frequency 5G radiation to an increasingly complicated combination of lower frequencies, both the physical and the mental health results would be detrimental. Another salient negative effect it has is that of the health issues it poses on consumers. According to World Health Organization, these increased frequencies can cause the following illness:

  • Tissue heating
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Cancer

This list is not exhaustive as further research is still ongoing as to the risks caused by the effects of these electromagnetic fields due to the increase in high-frequency radiation.

What are the direct positive and negative effects of the 5G networks on human rights in general?

It’s a known fact that the use of 5G has brought about endless possibilities and limitless connectivity, permitting countless remunerations for consumers, industry and society at large. However, it becomes essential to balance the help of this advanced network connectivity and a potential misuse that tends to occasion risk or health issues to society. Particularly in human rights, a careful balance must be struck to ensure that these benefits do not outweigh citizens’ right to live in a hazardous-free environment and the right to privacy.

In the previous section, we have taken the time to look at some of the positives that 5G technology provides. The following are some of the ways 5G technology will affect human rights negatively.

Negative effects of the 5G networks:

  • Technological Unemployment: Even though 5G technology has its own significant impact, some of which we have mentioned above, there is the fear among people that 5G enabled technologies and artificial intelligence will take more jobs by effectively doing jobs that ought to have been done by humans. Some of these areas are the blue-collar jobs like factory workers, and white-collar jobs like accounting among others. However, the good thing about this is that it forces people to acquire new skills that would allow them to move with the trend over time.
  • Health Concerns: We mentioned this aspect previously. There’s a huge accident that might happen due to the network equipment installation at the workplace. Installing the mast of these 5G networks, especially working with electricity and from heights can cause an occupational hazard. Not forgetting 5G radiation also from this technology and the illnesses it causes.
  • Privacy and data misuse: On the issue of Citizens’ right to privacy, the use of IoT will lead to vastly increased data flows and questions over storage and sharing of personal data. This will include government and state actors engaging in surveillance and private enterprise utilizing personal data to predict and monetize consumer/citizen behavior. Due to the rapid growth and expansion of 5G, they will need to ensure that consumers’ right to privacy is secured and not breached. This, therefore, calls for companies to ensure that cybersecurity measures are put in place. As with any breakthrough technology, hackers will find ways to exploit vulnerabilities. Many are concerned that we are making it easier for cybercriminals to access our data and systems with increased connectivity and speed.
  • Network surveillance and shutdowns: 5G technology will give the government or external body access to surveillance, precise citizens’ locations, which could be misused with malicious intent. People’s safety becomes a thing of the past as they can easily be tracked via this technology.
  • Supply chain impacts: As 5G technology hardware is produced, it will give rise to labor-rights risks. 5G hardware will increase the demand for certain minerals that are only available at higher risk and conflict-affected nations, hence, prompting a higher labor-rights risk in the communities. Here is one area that most nations have refused to pay much attention to – the truth is that the materials for making the hardware of these technologies are mined from low-income nations. In these locations, a lot of people are displaced from their homes because their place of residency was selected as locations to be mined for technology hardwares.
  • Society impacts: 5G technology, if not rolled out evenly among communities, can create some kind of digital divide in the region and create inequality between the people. Moreover, people may find it hard to trust 5G artificial intelligence because they feel it’s biased and not transparent and this will increase as the technology rolls out. Even though this technology is being rolled out in most developing nations, the cost of adopting this technology that uses a 5G network is way beyond the standard of living of most citizens, creating economic and financial segregation in the country.

It is clear that, although the possibilities and opportunities provided by the use of 5G are limitless, this does not leave it without any inherent risk as it affects human rights. The sooner these risks are identified, the better and easier it is to manage them. Governments of all nations likewise need to ensure that the rights of the people are at the forefront of any technology being introduced. However, in developing nations, the good thing is that this technology will provide more and faster connectivity for everyone. It would make it easier for people to connect over the Internet more efficiently and faster.