As preservationists, we are keenly aware of impacts new and emerging technologies have had and continue to have on the historic fabric of German Village. Each day I field calls about related issues including gas meters, cable service providers, electrical lines, sewers, etc. Accommodating the desires of modern life is a process that has been evolving in the district since, well… since the very first outhouse was installed!

Recently I have received interest from residents in the nationwide roll-out of the next generation of wireless technology: 5G.  Service providers such as Verizon and Qualcomm, among others, are set to build nationwide networks to deliver this technology.

Briefly, 5G is the term used to describe the fifth generation of cellular mobile communications. 5G has as its performance targets high data rates, reduced latency, energy saving, cost reduction, higher system capacity, and massive device connectivity. In other words- you can run your autonomous vehicle off of it. Or, put another way, today’s transmission speed of somewhere around 21 Mbps allows us uncut music streaming and prompt web surfing.  5G will manage to achieve over 10 Gbps or between 100 and 1000 times faster, making it possible to download an HD movie in 10 seconds.

The technology will also allow millions of devices to be connected simultaneously, allowing it to go far beyond the realm of smartphones.

5G is an integral aspect of the Smart Cities initiative as it promises the opportunity to live in an environment that is truly connected. Think streaming virtual reality, remote medical procedures, car-to-car connections, telling your robot to feed your dog back in Topeka whilst you rush to catch a plane in Kalamazoo.

You get the point.

Then there is the frequency thing. The current 4G technology operates at frequencies 600-900 Mhz, considered very safe at the lower wattages used in small cell deployments. These are known as non-ionizing frequencies. These low frequencies do not ‘excite’ the electrons in water or our bodies. This changes however as frequencies go up and above 1400-1500 Mhz. Higher frequencies are understood to cause cell damage as they excite the electrons in the cells in our bodies. Service providers are petitioning the FCC to use higher frequencies of around 3500 Mhz where they can transmit more data. Microwave ovens cook food and make water boil operating at 2400 Mhz. (I can hear you Googling now…)

Need I remind you we are about design control and retaining historic integrity here in German Village?

Key to our interest is the impact of the deployment of this new technology on the historic integrity of the district. The city of Dublin, our friends to the north, have adopted design guidelines: Design Guidelines for Small Cell Facilities and Wireless Support Structures with the Right-of-Way. You can read them HERE. (To quickly reference installation guidelines in historic Dublin, go to section 5.1)

As of this writing, the City of Columbus has not published such guidelines though we have been assured they are on their way. We will share any and all updates we receive with you promptly.

Full disclosure: Our area of expertise is preservation planning, not IT. For bricks, mortar, paint, and planning, call us. To learn about 5G along with me, start with the links below.

-Nancy Kotting


Further reading:

The Promise of 5G

Ajit Pai slams cities and towns as FCC erases $2 billion in local fees

FCC cracks the whip on 5G deployment against protests of local governments

5G service is coming – and so are health concerns over the towers that support it.

Scientists and Doctors Demand Moratorium on 5G

A Letter to the Editor