The roll out of 5G wireless networks is getting a ton of press these days. Countless paragraphs and news bulletins are being generated about the advantages and disadvantages of this new technology. The coverage runs the gamut: from “techtopian” descriptions of a The Jetsons-like future featuring autonomous cars and robot assistants, to one where our brains are fried by targeted microwaves. If you’re not already on one of those two teams it might be tempting to say, diplomatically, that the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes. Tempting, sure. And also wrong.

But, first, let’s start with what 5G actually is. With apologies to all the wonderful scientists and science writers of the world, here’s a spade = shovel attempt at explaining it: we use wireless technology to move information from one point to another using electromagnetic signals (which we call waves). In crude terms, Wi-Fi is essentially the same as radio waves (the ones you tune your car radio to), just of a ...

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