Technology is an ever fluid entity that is constantly evolving and advancing, and when it comes to mobile telecommunication, the latest is 5G technologies. 5G, a shorthand form of 5th generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, is the successor to 4G. This tech started rolling out worldwide in 2019. With 5G comes increases in network throughput, bandwidth, decreases in latency, and more opportunities for businesses that depend on fast, low latency remote connections.
In the Edmonton area, the major cell phone network providers in Canada started rolling out their 5G cell phone infrastructure to the public in 2020. Ibrahim Gedeon, CTO, TELUS, tells us about the success of their roll out and its coverage and uses in the last year.
“TELUS launched our 5G network last summer and it is now available in 81 communities across the country. That is roughly 30 per cent of the Canadian population. Throughout the pandemic, our customers – businesses, consumers, and students – with 5G network access have had vital connectivity to allow them work from home, meet their doctor online, watch a lecture and advance technological innovation to support economic recovery and growth amid COVID-19. However, the full realization of 5G in Canada will take some time, and this is mainly due to the need for different bands of radio frequencies (spectrum) that the government must make available to carriers like TELUS. Once we’re given access, Canadians will be propelled into a world that includes remote surgery, autonomous vehicles, next-level gaming, immersive education and so much more.”
5G affords businesses more access than ever before to mobile telecommunication connections. Gedeon explains, “With 5G, network congestion is a thing of the past. Beyond lightning-fast speeds, 5G offers more capabilities over today’s 4G networks, including increased capacity, ultra-low latency, network slicing and edge computing. This means employees will be able to live and work anywhere with faster, more secure connections, helping close the gap between rural and urban Canadians. 5G’s lower latency will also revolutionize things like manufacturing and supply chain automation.”
A big worry that people have within Canada is the cost of mobile cell phone plans, and what 5G means for them in terms of their mobile phone bills, but Gedeon reassures us saying, “TELUS 5G is available at no additional cost on TELUS Peace of Mind plans with endless data and no overage fees.”
Of course, with the release of new technologies, there are always naysayers, and with the COVID-19 pandemic putting stress on everybody across the world, conspiracy theories are gaining ground far more prolifically than previous wireless network generations. These conspiracy theories range from the mild, such as 5G technology being able to spy on the general public, to the scientifically impossible and outrageous claims of 5G spreading the COVID-19 virus globally.
Speaking on the mental health issues of conspiracy theories, especially during times of global upheaval, Vanessa Goodchild, M.C., registered psychologist and clinical director of Solace Psychology, delves deep into the causes of conspiracy theories in society.
“A conspiracy theory usually involves a secretive plot conjured up by a powerful, potentially dangerous group of people who are looking to gain something for themselves,” she says. “Conspiracy theories are not new; they have been around for ages. In a way, these theories can help people cope with uncertain or uncomfortable situations by offering an explanation for the chaos, even though there may be very little proof.”
Goodchild expands, “Conspiracy theories often have a bit of truth to them, which can make them very appealing. When people see a kernel of truth, they may automatically assume that the entire theory must be completely true. This especially occurs with people who feel anxious, fearful or out of control and desperately want quick answers.”
Increased access to media is a major propagator for conspiracy theories these days Goodchild points out. “The media provides us with immediate access to information and plays a large role in the spread of conspiracy theories. The companies and individuals in the spotlight who have the most followers will have more influence on the public. They have already gained the trust of their followers so they can share a theory based on very little evidence and have huge support.”
The COVID-19 pandemic causing uncertainty in many people’s lives has been a major trigger for increased conspiracy theory belief, which coincidentally occurred around the same time as 5G technology rollouts.
Goodchild speaks on triggers and cites sources, noting, “Research shows that individuals who feel distressed as a result of uncertainty are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories (van Prooijen & Jostmann, 2013) and therefore, develop paranoia. These people often need cognitive closure for events that lack clear official explanations (Marchlewska, Cichocka, & Kossowska, 2017). They are not satisfied with typical, simple explanations (Leman & Cinnirella, 2013). They want a causal explanation to gain a sense of stability and control over their environment, and ultimately their lives.”
Confirmation bias and groupthink are major contributors to conspiracy theories Goodchild points out.
“This is where the confirmation bias comes in. Individuals will seek out and favour information that confirms their beliefs while ignoring or justifying facts that go against their beliefs. Research shows that this effect is stronger for emotionally charged events, which makes sense regarding the most recent conspiracies about threats to our freedom under 5G surveillance.
“Groupthink is another reason why conspiracy theories spread. Groupthink is a phenomenon first coined by psychologist Irving Janis in 1971. It occurs when a group of people make irrational decisions based on the desire to conform and fit in with the others. We are social beings, so acceptance and approval are sometimes more valued than critical thinking or speaking the truth.”
For those looking forward to the advances of 5G, upgrading your cell phone is likely a must, and proper recycling steps should be taken to ensure your old technology doesn’t just end up in a landfill. Brad Schultz, director of operations at Alberta Recycling Management Authority, informs us about their latest program.
“We have 450+ collection sites throughout the province that are currently participating in the ePilot project, so all communities and their residents have the convenience to discard electronics material for recycling.” Visit www.albertarecycling.ca/recycling-depots to find a recycling depot near you.
Schultz reiterates the importance of recycling for technology. “As we know, a number of these devices contain hazardous material. To ensure these materials are kept out of the waste stream, we’ve provided an opportunity for all Albertans to take these devices to end of life and to create an opportunity to generate commodities in the manufacturing of new products.”
Providing information on how successful the new program has been, Schultz says. “The data collected is weight-based and the tonnage that has been collected and recycled to date is approximately 1,305 tonnes. Our target is to double the overall volumes of material based on our current electronics program intake. We are currently working on a province-wide media campaign to increase the ePilot program awareness to the province, which in turn, we’re hoping to increase volumes of materials being recycled.”
Despite the vocal minority of conspiracy theorists, the roll out of the new 5G telecommunication technology has been a wild success, and a boon to consumers and businesses across Canada. With further expansion of frequencies by the Government of Canada in the future, we should see new possibilities in all industries of what can be done remotely throughout Canada and the world.
There is no fact-based scientific evidence that supports any connection whatsoever between 5G technology and the spread of COVID-19. All electronic emissions in Canada are governed by Safety Code 6, which sets limits for safe human exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic energy and is overseen by Industry Canada and Health Canada. All TELUS devices, services and wireless sites fall well within safe levels as set out in the code, which is one of the strictest in the developed world. In fact, as wireless sites are low-powered by the nature of their technology, many of our sites emit a signal hundreds – or even thousands – of times below what is allowed by Canada’s already-conservative code.