Transition to 5G is just around the corner. This means that the next-generation of networking standards is going to be a major topic in tech this year.  Whenever there’s a conversation about the next step in mobile networking, familiar “alternative facts” and conspiracy theories tend to pop up and have to be debunked. Time and again. Here are the lies, big lies, damned lies, and statistics about 5G.

Let’s see if we can dispel some of the confusion surrounding 5G — from the innocent misconceptions to ridiculous myths.

5G is Already Here.

Back in October 2019, Verizon launched 5G Home — also marketed as the first “5G” service in the world. A month later, AT&T and T-Mobile introduced their mobile 5G network launches in select cities around the US.

Does this mean that the widespread availability of the new technology is just around the corner? Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Here’s what the telco companies are actually offering.

What the data says.

  • Verizon’s 5G Home “network” is actually just a fancy name for home WiFi.
  • AT&T’s mobile coverage is only available in select neighborhoods of a few densely populated cities.
  • Sprint’s 5G service covers parts of nine cities around the country.
  • T-Mobile’s 5G is only available in six US cities: Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York.

The verdict: It’s coming, but it’s not really here, yet.

5G Will Make Driving Obsolete.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen countless prediction-articles about the imminent rise of self-driving cars. The supposed widespread 5G coverage is often mentioned as the key prerequisite to autonomous vehicles becoming a reality.

Since 5G is “about to” explode availability-wise — does this mean we’ll be letting our Volkswagens take the wheel all around the world in no time? Well, not quite.

What the data says.

  • Autonomous driving is more than just about network coverage — and so far, car manufacturers from Ford to GM to Hyundai are rolling back their optimistic projections.
  • Even with ubiquitous 5G availability — the cars would have to be able to drive where the coverage is spotty.
  • According to May Mobility CEO Edwin Olson, “Robotaxis are likely to be a fantasy until 2035.”

The verdict: We’re nowhere near having driverless cars. And we may yet see 6G networks before there are AVs cruising through public roads in any significant numbers.

The Tech is not that Revolutionary.

With 5G technology being hyped up as it’s been, seeing some skeptical voices trying to bring the public down to earth is not that surprising. However, a 2019 Accenture survey of more than 1,800 executives found that 53% of those execs believe that “there are “very few” things that 5G will enable them to do that they cannot already do with 4G networks.”

Sure, it’s easy to think of 5G as being the same to 4G as 3G was to 2G. But is this knee-jerk skepticism really warranted in this case? Is the upcoming networking technology actually not that big a deal? Let’s see what promising applications we can expect from the 5G revolution.

What the data says.

  • 5G technology already enabled actual remote surgery. Which will have massive implications for the healthcare industry.
  • With up to 10-times higher speeds, 5G may finally kill cable TV. And make streaming services the new home standard.
  • Back in 2017, the 5G RuralFirst project was the first to “successfully plant, tend and harvest a crop without a single human stepping foot in the field.” Farming is just one example of the kind of impact we’ll be seeing in automation, and farming will be a win with the advent of 5G.

The verdict: 5G may not be the second coming, but it’s a pretty big deal.

No 5G – no Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is only one of the sectors where 5G is expected to have some of the greatest impacts. This might be the reason for numerous network carriers and device manufacturers pointing to 5G as the next big step in wider IoT adoption.

Does this mean a company should wait for 5G before releasing their new and improved smart parking meter, dog monitor, or leak detector? Of course not. But that’s exactly what can happen when you put products as diverse as smart alarm systems, smart cities, telesurgery, and driverless cars under the same IoT umbrella.

What the data says.

  • According to Bo Ribbing, a strategic program director for IoT at Ericsson, “the mobile networks that are here today can support pretty much any use case you can imagine.”
  • Low-power IoT networks can run on 2G, which is available pretty much everywhere in the world.

The verdict: Yes, 5G will have a huge impact on IoT in the near future, but that doesn’t mean device makers should wait before launching new IoT products.

The Good-old “it’s Going to Give You Cancer and Microwave Your Brains” Health Scare.

Last but not least, the ghost of mobile generations past is back to haunt the airwaves in 2020. Claiming that the newest networking technology is going to be even more apocalyptic than its predecessors (this time the horrors also include infertility, Alzheimer’s and autism). Anti-5G activists are out in full force with online blogs, comment sections, and social media.

Does their concern have merit? Is 5G actually going to microwave your brains? Is the end really nigh?!

What the data says.

  • The WHO declared radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans, which means that cell phones are about as dangerous as coffee.
  • The claims of microwave radiation received by brains from wireless connections have been debunked.
  • There’s no evidence that 5G wavelengths are dangerous.

The verdict: As of now — there’s no compelling evidence for 5G being unsafe for public use.

Edvardas Mikalauskas

Senior Writer

Edvardas Mikalauskas is a writer for Ed's interests include tech, cybersecurity, and video games. He's always looking at what's next and how technology will change people's lives.