South Africans are still sceptical about 5G technology, research reveals

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5G is die toekoms, maar dalk nie vir alledaagse kommunikasie nie. Foto: Unsplash
5G is die toekoms, maar dalk nie vir alledaagse kommunikasie nie. Foto: Unsplash


When Covid-19 hysteria hit about a year ago, 5G searches surged to record highs as people believed that the 5G towers which were going up around them were responsible for the spread of the virus. A year later and people have come to learn a lot more about the virus, but it turns out they are still sceptical about the dangers of the fifth generation of cellular networks.

South Africans are ranked eighth out of 20 countries that are regarded as the most sceptical about 5G, according to a study by Prolifics Testing, a software testing service.

The US came out on top with 374 400 sceptical searches per month, followed by the UK with 93 400 and Australia at 32 970. Nigeria, the only other African country on the top 20, is at 13th with 6 850 searches.

In total, 155 countries were assessed in the study.

5g trends

Using Google data through online analytics tool Ahrefs, Prolifics Testing found that the following questions were the most common:

. Is 5G dangerous?

. Does 5G have health risks?

. Is 5G safe?

. Is 5G harmful?

. Does 5G cause/spread Covid19?

To come up with the rankings, Prolifics Testing “classified and grouped consistently recurring Google searches by individuals on 5G” then found out “how many times each question was searched on average each month in different areas to deduce which country is the most sceptical or curious about the new technology”.

READ: Leave no one behind: Uniting to bridge the digital chasm in Africa

At the bottom end of the top 20, Denmark and Austria feature with 1 410 and 1 570 average number of sceptical online searches per month, respectively.

In South Africa, 5G technology is slowly rolling out, mostly in Gauteng and the Western Cape. Vodacom, MTN and Rain all provide 5G services, while other providers will come online soon as the ongoing spectrum auction draws to a conclusion.

Telecommunications company Ericsson says 5G will advance societies, transform industries and elevate experiences. The company says people will be able to download things such as HD movies in seconds, even in crowded stadiums that usually have poor internet connections.

But it is not the millimetre wave spectrum (mmWave) high-band 5G that makes the headlines, it is the much slower mid-band 5G, which is about six times faster than 4G LTE. MmWave technology requires users to be almost within the viewing range of 5G towers to get 1GB per second downloads. Mid-band will give users speeds of about 150MB to 200MB per second, so downloading that full-length HD movie will take about three minutes, but it won’t have to be directly under the tower to get those speeds.

Speaking on why there are fears of 5G technology impacting health, Ethernity Networks chief executive David Levi said on that fears could be attributed to the fact that 5G technology requires a high number of cells, so more people see 5G masts in their local vicinity.

“Maybe it’s that 5G will operate at a higher frequency which is causing greater concern. Or it could be that Covid-19 just has everyone a little more on edge. Whatever the reason, 5G is the subject of an astounding number of conspiracy theories,” Levi said.

READ: Increased trade - exactly what Africa needs post-Covid-19

The online search volumes used in the research were calculated as an average from a complete 12-month period from February 2020 to January 2021.


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