5G (fifth generation) mobile phones and services are slowly being rolled out in France.
This is despite continued protests and a series of opposition campaigns, including eco-warrior groups torching masts suspected of being used for 5G.
Read more: Two Catholic monks arrested for burning down a 5G antenna near Lyon to protect people from nuisance
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Their reasoning seems to be based on unfounded internet speculation that convinced them that 5G is bad for the planet, humans, animals and plants.
Some have even claimed, without any evidence, that the Covid outbreak was caused by 5G cellphones.
Read more: 5G antennas in France do not pose a health risk confirms the agency
None of this, however, seems to have stopped the services from gaining popularity.
A study by one of the leading technology industry analyst groups, CCS Insight, estimates that by the end of the year, one billion people worldwide will be able to use 5G.
A long way to go in rural France
However, the study probably didn’t look too closely at rural France, where some parts still have 2G mobile phone coverage and 4G is still new enough to be noticed when it works.
People living in and near cities are the first to benefit from 5G. Maps, not always very reliable, show at least 17 urban centers in France which have coverage.
The May figures, the latest available, show 24,949 5G antennas were working, compared to 60,385 antennas for 4G. 5G coverage is offered by the four incumbent operators: Bouygues Telecom, Free Mobile, Orange and SFR. Free currently has the most coverage – see tinyurl.com/5GFrance.
Read more: Update: Where is 5G in France currently and how is the deployment progressing?
Read more: Orange gives the green light to the dismantling of copper telephone lines in France
fundamentally different 5G
Much of the excitement about 5G coverage comes from how it marks a fundamental difference in how mobile phone technology works.
In 4G equipment and previous generations, the radio signals from the masts are distributed over the area covered by the antenna and then intercepted by a mobile phone when its user wishes to make a call or use the Internet.
With 5G technology, it is the mobile phone, or other device, that sends a signal to the nearest mast, which then “points” its coverage towards the user, instead of the whole area being covered by a signal. .
It’s this “pointing” of 5G radio waves that eco-warriors worry about, even though microwave doses are far lower than those found around microwave ovens.
The system allows much greater bandwidth to be used for specific tasks – for example, allowing entire movies to be downloaded to a smartphone in minutes with the right kind of expensive data subscription.
It also allows the mobile device to more easily switch between 5G antenna coverage and without the risk of signal loss, as can happen with 4G and earlier systems. 5G antenna arrays alert their neighbors to point their signal when they can do better than the first.
Not practical for driverless cars
When there was a lot of excitement about the possibility of driverless cars, it was 5G’s high bandwidth and reliable signal that led people to believe automakers would embrace the technology.
Once the practicalities were considered, however, 5G wasn’t such a good match for self-driving cars as previously thought. For it to work in cities to the required safety standards, it would need to have an antenna in every street to prevent the signal from being blocked by buildings.
Read more: France, first EU country to adapt its highway code to self-driving cars
Read more: Semi-autonomous cars now allowed on some French roads
Likewise, its intended use as a large transformer in industry, allowing machines to communicate with each other without human interference to complete tasks, has stalled as engineers contemplate the complexity and expense of installation. dedicated 5G systems.
This could happen in the future, but there are few projects currently underway in France, in particular because the unions oppose it, fearing that it will lead to job losses.
What has happened so far?
What happened is that if you live in an area with 5G coverage, and if you have a compatible smartphone, you can subscribe to 5G mobile phone services for more or less the same price as the services existing 4G.
Read more: Mobile phone bills in France rise by up to 120% due to hidden ‘freebies’
Most people say they don’t notice much of a difference, but carriers insist that everything about mobile data usage, from email to internet usage, is faster and more fluid.
It’s also possible that 5G will be pushed, with a bit of government help, into rural areas where big plans to connect every home to fiber optic cables have hit financial buffers, with 30% of France still some way off. to be being connected.
Orange and other operators already offer 4G-based modems (at a high price) that are four times faster than ADSL connections.
If these can be upgraded to 5G, with even better broadband speeds, the need for speed over cable won’t be so obvious.
Experiments with industrial uses continue – tenders for special experimental coverage of the financial sector of La Défense on the outskirts of Paris closed in September, with city managers who issued the contract admitting they did not know how it could be used.
The experiment, which will run until the end of 2023, will serve to allow more measurements of 5G wave propagation, allowing health experts to make assessments.
Unused bandwidth will be resold to mobile operators. The government-backed 5G rush has helped topple a leading French tech company, also backed by the government.
Sigfox, based in Toulouse, was founded in 2009 and has become a world leader in the “internet of things”.
Using so-called 0G technology, it sold kits that gave factories their own reliable radio broadband to run machinery and logistics — exactly the kind of thing 5G promises.
After investments of at least 275 million euros, it appealed to administrators this year, with state bank Bpifrance among the investors who lost their shares.
Sigfox was bought by a Singaporean company created by a former employee, who agreed to keep part of his business in France.
Our main image was drawn for The connection by artist Perry Taylor. For more of his work see www.perrytaylor.fr
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