The false, superstitious belief that 5G cellular networks are somehow causing a global health crisis has found a new conspiracy theory: the idea that the global coronavirus pandemic is caused by 5G. It is not.
The current idiocy made its way into my Twitter feed via Keri Hilson, an R&B singer who for some reason has 4.2 million Twitter followers and 2.3 million Instagram followers. She apparently got it from someone with 839,000 Instagram followers going by “chakabars,” from a completely random chiropractor named Gloriane Giovanelli, and from the Wikipedia quick-fact snippet appearing on a search for “Who invented 5G?'”
Hilson’s most striking source is a completely insane video, which she posted to her Instagram, where a man with his name tag turned backwards claims that the 1918 flu pandemic was caused by the invention of radio, some undescribed pandemic during World War II was caused by “Radar fields,” and a 1968 flu in Hong Kong was caused by “satellites emitting radioactive frequencies.”
“In the last six months, with the electrification of the Earth … it’s called 5G,” the unnamed man says, going on to spout more utter word salad, including “the first completely blanketed 5G city in the world was … Wuhan, China.”
Phone Scoop has a simple explainer as to why 5G networks are safe overall. Without spending too much time on this, I’m going to debunk some of the claims you may see in specifically coronavirus-related posts.
- The form of 5G used in China relies on “sub-6” airwaves that are between common 4G and Wi-Fi frequencies. 4G is around 2GHz, this stuff is around 3.5GHz, Wi-Fi uses 5GHz. It’s well-trodden territory that has been used for more than a decade. These are not the “millimeter wave” systems you hear a lot of bellyaching about. Millimeter-wave is still safe, by the way, but this isn’t even millimeter-wave.
- Citywide 5G was available in the US before it was available in China. While China did indeed launch 5G in 50 cities on November 1, Sprint launched broad-coverage 5G in nine US cities last summer (which we covered.) Those US cities have been “blanketed” with 5G for months longer than China has.
- COVID-19 is spreading in places that do not have 5G. Japan, one of the virus hotspots, does not currently have 5G. Iran, another major hotspot, does not have 5G. Malaysia, another hotspot, does not have 5G. And so on. There is no correlation between increased spread and the presence of 5G. Italy has 5G and the virus went wild; Iran does not, and the virus went wild.
- Here in the US, most of the “5G” you see is just a slightly different form of encoding on airwaves that have been used for nearly 100 years. T-Mobile’s low-band 5G is on old UHF TV channels. UHF TV did not cause coronavirus. AT&T’s low-band 5G is on cellular frequencies used since 1983, and it is no more powerful. Sprint’s 5G is on 4G frequencies that have been used since 2007. Yes, some new mmWave frequencies are being used in the US, but they have almost no coverage right now, much as Verizon’s marketing would like you to think otherwise.
- “Turning off LTE” does not reduce you to 4G speeds. It disables 4G, a well-established technology that has been around for 10 years. In the US, where 3G and 2G networks are by and large being turned down or off, turning off LTE will definitely damage your ability to connect. It will especially damage your ability to view multimedia Internet content such as insane Instagram posts about 5G, which … you know what? Do it. Just do it.
Stay safe, folks. Stay inside. Don’t listen to craziness.