5G has certainly been a hot topic during the Covid pandemic – and not always for the right reasons.

Network Configurations (Netconfig) technical director Wayne Erradu explains that on one hand it has been seen as a blessing as the blistering speeds have allowed workers to shift to working remotely with ease where 5G has been implemented.

On the other hand, it has been a contentious issue with debate raging as to whether 5G contributes to the spread of Covid-19.

Erradu elaborates some details about 5G and what exactly it is.

“5G is the Fifth Generation for Cellular Networks which is intended to replace 4G/LTE and is capable of delivering 1 000 times faster speeds than current 4th Generation/LTE.  T

“his may be more pragmatic in South Africa where fibre is not ubiquitous, and with the majority of our population vastly spread and their only means of connecting to the worldwide web via cellular capabilities.

“5G has the ability to deliver faster internet to large swathes of our population,” Erradu points out. “The applications for 5G will bring about the ability for online learning, the Internet of Things as well as the ability for users to work remotely from almost anywhere at much faster speeds.”

He adds: “Generally speaking, the world considers internet access a human right and with 5G it would open up the opportunities immensely to get education to the masses of our people – among many other benefits.

“Artificial intelligence, augmented reality and using the cloud will change the face of how business is conducted in the near future. The Covid 19 pandemic has shown us that the remote workforce will now become a reality.

“Over the months the Netconfig team has setup Networks with the capability of working remotely anywhere, anytime from any device. Having a faster internet connection will be make this much easier for the mobile workforce.”

Erradu believes that 5G is the driver for what is termed the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the possibilities of having ubiquitous fast internet is going to be a game changer not just for South Africa but as a continent as a whole.

“While all of this sounds cool, it is a few years away as there are a few hurdles to overcome. South Africa lags other countries in implementation as the required spectrum (radio frequency) has not been released by the regulating authority ICASA. Networks such as Telkom, MTN, Vodacom and  others would need to invest in upgrading equipment at their towers to support 5G which will require significant capital expenditure.”

He adds that most current devices (phones, tablets, routers) are not 5G ready.

“During the current lockdown ICASA allowed the release of temporary spectrum to networks to enable users to work remotely and to ease the burden on Networks. Operators such as Vodacom and Rain seized the moment and turned on 5G in areas in Gauteng and the Western Cape and expect to have other areas rolled out in due course.

“Simply put, faster internet access to more people at a reasonable cost will see not only a different country but a more connected world.”

When it comes to 5G being blamed for the pandemic, Erradu points out there is no empirical evidence as yet that it indeed contributes to the spread of Covid-19. “5G emits radio frequency and Covid as we know is a biological virus. Studies continue today to show the effects of 4G on humans and in time as more studies are conducted it may show if there is indeed any correlation between 5G and viruses.

“The race right now is to find a vaccine for Covid 19 and those collaborating across different countries would surely be using high speed internet to get data and analysis as humankind pursues a cure.

“Regardless of this, time will tell if there are any links in these uncertain times and we would always need to ensure the safety of people first versus the benefits of faster Internet.”