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5G vs. 4G Wireless Networks & How to Protect from 5G EMF Exposure

Last Updated on April 24, 2024

How 5G is different from 4G

5G – a hot topic that continues to get bigger. Since late 2019, the 5G network has been rolling out globally. By 2025, the goal is for global widespread coverage.

We understand the functional reason for the telecom industry’s desire to implement 5G networks: to allow data (bandwidth) to travel at larger quantities using faster rates.

However, as 5G is well underway to becoming the norm, many researchers and people alike are beginning to realize that 5G may have more of a negative impact compared to previous networks. 

5G is not just a “better version” of 4G. It uses different frequencies, different cell towers, and completely different data transfer technologies.

To gain better insight on 5G and its effects on the body, we need to understand how exactly 5G operates, and if there are ways to protect our bodies against 5G-specific frequencies.

How the 5G Network is Different

Different Frequencies

Rather than replacing 4G, the 5G network will build upon and expand the previous frequencies with new allotments of frequencies.

Past networks operated on frequencies of around 1 to 3 gigahertz (GHz).

5G will take it up a notch to operate on three different sets of frequencies, also called bands: low-band operating below 1 GHz, mid-band up to 6 GHz, and high-band will use 24 GHz and higher. Included in mid-band frequencies are wavelengths in the C-band spectrum, auctioned off to network companies in early 2021 because it offers the best mix of coverage and capacity.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved frequencies up to 300 GHz. However, current 5G cell phone networks haven’t yet bid on frequencies above 50 GHz.

While nothing above 5 GHz has been used before in mass communication, high-band 5G is what most people are concerned about, since it uses much faster frequencies, called millimeter waves.

It’s important to note that as electromagnetic frequencies get higher, their wavelength gets shorter.

This means that high-band 5G waves are much shorter, getting down to mere millimeters long. For example, 1 GHz is 300 millimeters, 10 GHz is 30 mm, and 30 GHz is 10 mm. Above 30 GHz, the wavelength gets down to 1 mm.

Frequency (Hertz)Wavelength (m)
1 GHz30 cm
5 GHz6 cm
10 GHz3 cm
30 GHz10 mm
100 GHz3 mm
300 GHz1 mm

With millimeter waves, there is high propagation loss. Imagine a rock being dropped in a pond. The waves are strongest right at the point of contact. As they ripple out, the waves decrease in intensity.

Different Data Transfer

That’s exactly what happens with 5G radio waves.

5G waves cannot travel far. They have a hard time penetrating thick dense surfaces, including concrete, wood, dense trees, and sometimes even humid air.

In order to compensate for the loss of strength in the waves, the 5G network uses multiple small cell tower sites within close proximities. This can be as close as 750 feet apart, as opposed to miles of coverage for a regular cell tower.

These small cell towers employ beamforming technology to make sure a signal reaches your device.

Beamforming is a technique to focus radio waves. Instead of sending out signals in all directions like a 4G cell tower or WiFi router, beamforming focuses the energy in a straight line to your phone or device.

By sending out the same wave at slightly different times, beamforming is able to send signals, which normally have high propagation loss, further through a directed signal.

Different Bandwidth Needs

Another difference between 5G and past generations is the need for increased speed and bandwidth.

5G is promoted as being 100 times faster than previous networks. 5G needs more bandwidth to operate because of the increase in upload/download speed, which stems from integrating devices meant to further connect the world through the “Internet of Things,” or IoT.

While the 5G network is being expanded rapidly, not all current devices are able to connect. Devices need to have a 5G modem in order to connect to the newest network. Unless your device uses cellular data AND specifically says it is 5G-enabled, it won’t connect to 5G.

Apple introduced 5G tech with their iPhone 12 line, and Samsung with their S20 models. Some tablets that debuted in 2020 also have 5G capabilities.

5g Network Differences Icons

While we are well aware of the benefits of technology and a connected world, we also believe it is imperative to be mindful of the potential dangers and health impacts of chronic exposure to 5G.

5G Dangers: The Unknown

Unfortunately, because 5G is new, there is no long-term data on the health impacts. This could take another 20+ years–at which case we will have moved on to 6G.

We are essentially living in a live experiment.

In fact, earlier this year, the first ever case study of the health effects of 5G radiation on humans was conducted by the Swedish Radiation Protection Foundation and published in the journal Medicinsk Access no. 1/2022 and carried out by the oncologist and researcher Lennart Hardell from the Research Foundation for Environment & Cancer and Mona Nilsson from the Radiation Protection Foundation. ​​​​​​​​
The case study showed that a 5G base station only 5 meters above the roof of a 62 and 63 year old couple’s apartment caused a sharp increase in radiation, leading them to develop clear symptoms of Microwave Syndrome (similar to Havana Syndrome), within a few days. Their symptoms included fatigue, dizziness, headache, difficulty sleeping, concentration, and memory problems. ​​​​​​​​
Before 5G, there were already base stations for 3G and 4G directly above their apartment, in the same place the new 5G tower was placed. However, switching to the 5G tower led to an increase in radiation levels that went from 9,000 microW / m2 to a maximum of 1,690,000 microW / m2. After the two people living in the apartment’s symptoms were so severe they could no longer live there, they moved to a living space with significantly lower radiation levels, and their symptoms rapidly decreased. ​​​​​​​​
The study also found that prolonged exposure to radiation at the 5G level – such as in schools, homes, and offices – will lead to more harmful effects than just the short term side effects the couple mentioned above experienced. A more prolonged exposure can lead to harmful effects on the nervous system, oxidative stress, and DNA damage that could potentially lead to cancer.​​​​​​​​

Furthermore, in 2011, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified EMF radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

In 2018, the National Toxicity Program (NTP) released results from a 10 year study showing a statistically significant increase in brain and heart tumors in rats when exposed to EMF frequencies from older cellular generations.

Aside from cancer, there are already a host of other health issues research has associated with EMF exposure, including sleep disturbances, male and female fertility problems, headaches, tinnitus, and cognitive and physiological changes. In children, developmental problems have also become apparent.

For 5G, the effects could be the same or different, or simply exacerbate previously-research effects.

5G Network How it Works Infographic

Why 5G Might be More Dangerous than Previous Networks:

  • The 5G network requires more towers due to their shorter range. More towers may increase your exposure, even if you do not have a 5G device.
  • The power levels coming from small cell sites will be higher and closer to you. To travel 750 feet, 5G antennas need to transmit at power lever over 40 watts–and possibly up to 100 watts. 4G towers transmit at around 60 watts, but they are up to 5 miles away. 
  • 5G will work simultaneously with the 4G network, exposing you to multiple levels of frequencies that will accumulate exposures and potential effects. 5G can support up to one million devices per square mile, increasing the sheer number of devices with wireless capabilities. There is also an 11-fold increase in low orbit 5G satellites supplementing the grounded small cells.
  • 5G is exposing your skin, a very large and important organ, to much higher, more biologically active frequencies. Research suggests the biological response will be triggered in the skin and have physiological effects on the nervous system, heart, and immune system.
  • Scientists are concerned that 5G’s higher frequencies might create new problems. Dr. Martin Pall, who has found that EMFs activate calcium channels in cells, believes that because 5G millimeter wave frequencies are highly pulsed, they will impact these calcium channels (VGCCs) more and thus cause disease at a faster rate.

On top of all this, the FCC has not updated its cell phone safety standards since 1996, which was 25 years ago and a full decade before the iPhone was invented.

Based on SAR (specific absorption rating) measurements of thermal effects of radiation absorption, the standards ignore the biological effects we now know exist regardless of thermal changes.

The FCC is saying 5G is safe because they haven’t looked into proving otherwise.

Protection Matters: Understanding the Ways to Shield Yourself from 5G

It is important to understand that 5G functions at higher frequencies, meaning shorter wavelengths. These high-spectrum wavelengths penetrate materials differently than longer wavelengths of previous networks. Beamforming means your ambient exposure will likely be different.

Because of this, most EMF shields offered today will not actually protect you against high-band 5G frequencies—neither can aluminum foil or silver. The majority of EMF shields cannot block over 20 GHz, which can block low- and mid-band 5G, but not high-band 5G over 24 GHz.

Ultra Armor™, DefenderShield’s newest EMF shielding technology, is the only material currently capable of blocking frequencies up to 90 GHz, which includes the frequencies of high-band 5G.

It is made out of a composite metal material that took DefenderShield two years to develop in partnership with a facility that also makes cybersecurity gear for the military.

With 5G becoming more ubiquitous and technology continuing to innovate, DefenderShield is planning ahead and pioneering the next generation of EMF shielding. No other products or companies come close to shielding frequencies up to 90 GHz. It also blocks radio frequencies from WiFi, Bluetooth, and older cellular networks.

Ways to Protect Against 5G Frequencies

  • Distance yourself from & reduce time spent near 5G sources. Distance and time are the best ways to reduce EMF exposure, and this doesn’t change with 5G exposure. Reduce your exposure by 80% by placing your 5G-enabled device just one foot away.
  • Make sure you are not within 200 feet of a 5G tower. Studies already linked living near cell towers with rare forms of cancer before 5G was introduced. 5G towers are more powerful to compensate for the shorter frequencies. To find out where there are live 5G towers, check out this map of live 5G towers.
  • Disable 5G connection on your devices. As 5G is the new standard, new devices will come equipped with the capabilities to connect to the network and auto connect to this network. However, you can turn off the 5G antenna and connect back to the 4G LTE network.
    – On Apple devices, go to Settings -> Cellular -> Cellular Data Options -> Voice & Data -> select LTE.
    – On Samsung devices, go to Settings -> Connections -> Mobile Networks -> Network Mode -> select LTE/3G/2G.
  • Reduce your time spent in very dense urban areas, stadiums, crowded buildings, etc. 5G towers are more likely in these places, sending high frequency signals to more people. Even if you aren’t using a 5G device, people around you might be. Don’t become a hermit, but know that your exposure will likely increase in these spaces.
  • If you use other forms of shielding, check to make sure they protect against the high band frequency of 5G. Even if they claim 5G protection, they might only be protecting from the lower part of the 5G spectrum .

5G radiation may expose you to less ambient radiation because of the propagation loss and beamforming. That doesn’t mean the frequencies are less dangerous.

When 5G Exposure is Negligible

5G Network Tower in City on Building
  1. When you are far away from a 5G tower (over 1000 feet)
  2. If none of your surrounding devices are 5G-enabled
  3. In a sparsely-populated area

Ways to Reduce your Overall EMF Exposure

While 5G is not going away anytime soon, there are many other frequencies coming from your mobile devices. This includes WiFi, Bluetooth, 4G and other cellular networks, and Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) radiation. Here are ways you can reduce your daily EMF exposure to all different types of sources.

  • Distance yourself. As stated above, the best way to reduce EMF exposure is by placing your devices as far away from you as possible.
  • Turn off devices and take advantage of Airplane Mode. This will significantly decrease wireless exposure, as Airplane Mode disables cellular, WiFi, and Bluetooth connections.
  • Try not to put devices directly on your body. If you need to use your laptop or tablet while lounging on the couch, use an EMF Protection Blanket or DefenderPad Laptop EMF & Heat Shield to protect your reproductive organs.
  • Take a break from tech with a digital detox. There are both mental and physical benefits to limiting screen time, and there are also benefits to the decreased exposure to EMFs. Places exist around the world that give you a total digital detox and are complete EMF-free zones.
  • Arrange your home to mitigate EMF exposure. Having a happy and healthy home comes with health benefits. Check out this blog to learn the art of Feng Shui so you can set up your home to get the best energy balance.

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Daniel T. DeBaun

Daniel T. DeBaun is an internationally recognized and influential expert in Electromagnetic Radiation (EMF) and shielding electronic emissions, with a particular focus on the effect of exposure from mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and cell phones. Daniel’s concern regarding the health impact of electronic radiation emissions grew from over 30 years of engineering experience in the telecommunications industry, where he held a variety of leadership and executive positions at Bell Labs, AT&T, SAIC and Telcordia. Daniel is co-author of recent bestseller, Radiation Nation: The Fallout of Modern Technology, a complete guide to EMF radiation safety and protection. Daniel is also a highly regarded industry consultant, speaker as well as frequent guest national radio and television programs discussing EMF health issues.