Jeff Hammer: Transitioning to 5G

Every time I open my mailbox, I’m hopeful that its contents will make me smile, and on occasion, that hope is fulfilled. Like the other day when I received my quarterly magazine from Pheasants Forever, an organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing habitat not just for pheasants, but for all upland game birds. Not that I’m fanatical about pheasant hunting. I’ve hunted those Asian implants once in the past four decades, but if I can support an organization that helps all game birds, I will. 

Closer to home, if there were a Sage Grouse Forever organization, I’d be in on it in a heartbeat, but I guess there are probably not enough sage grouse hunters out there to support such an association, and those of us who do pursue those big gray birds are generally not well heeled like those individuals I see in my magazines sporting expensive shotguns and following well bred pooches through fields of corn and sorghum in the midwest. My perception is that we sage grouse hunters are the redheaded stepchildren of the upland game bird hunting fraternity. I could be wrong, though. Some people of my acquaintance will tell you that I generally am.

But back to my mailbox. I would venture a guess that no less than 80% of the contents therein go to the recycling box, while 5%, like the aforementioned magazine, make me smile, 14% cause me to grumble. If you have done the math, I have not included 1%, and it’s that small fraction of my mail that makes my hoppin’ mad.

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Not long ago, a letter from our cell phone provider arrived with news that, to say the least, was distressing. The first sentence, of course, thanked us for being loyal customers, which is always a bad omen. It’s been my experience that when a letter starts that way, the rest of the information is going to be bad news. True to form, this one was no different.

 As of January 1, 2023, the letter went on to inform me…“3GCDMA devices and 4G devices that do not support HD Voice (Non-VoLTE) will not be able to send or receive calls, send or receive text messages, or use data services.”

What this means is that, as of the first of the year, I won’t be able to use my trusty flip phone that I bought a few years ago for about sixty bucks, as it will no longer be supported by the company’s new 4G LTE/5G network, and it will be rendered useless. And for that reason, I’m a little disgusted with our cell service provider.

Oh, I love technology. Hopefully, you can feel my sarcasm. I love it so much, I refuse to buy a smartphone, and I refuse to participate on any social media platform. I don’t know anything about Tic Toc, but I do know that Tic Tac’s, those mint flavored little hard candies, besides being way too expensive, contain a few deadly ingredients if consumed in large quantities. My perception is that if you care about your mental and physical health, you should avoid both. 

In an effort to understand more about 5G technology, I decided to perform a little research as to its benefits. In accordance with that reasoning, I clicked on the first site that wasn’t an advertisement after I googled “What are the benefits of 5G technology?” From Intel Technologies I found the following general information: “Emerging 5G networks feature lower latency, higher capacity, and increased bandwidth compared to 4G. These network improvements will have far-reaching impacts on how people live, work, and play all over the world.”

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That last sentence sounds so…ah, life changing. Really? Well, I guess it’s changed my life, now that I had to purchase a new communication device that will let me talk and text with friends and family, although the one I had performed those tasks just fine. 

Having what I consider an open mind, I decided to continue reading in order to better understand how my life will suddenly be better with 5G technologies. The article further expounds that wireless speed will increase dramatically. It continues: “Predicted speeds of up to 10 Gbps (I’m assuming this means gigabytes per second) represent up to a 100x increase compared to 4G. In practical terms, 4G vs. 5G speed enhancements will mean exciting possibilities for consumers. Transferring a high-resolution movie at peak download speeds will go from taking seven minutes to just six seconds. 

Well, that’s not going to enrich my life any, as I don’t use my phone to watch movies, its tiny screen nearly useless for that purpose, but the good news is I have a television for that. But wait, this might be important: “That time savings could mean being able to grab that new hit film before the flight attendant asks you to put your phone in airplane mode.” Still not for me. I don’t travel on airplanes to watch movies, although I have been known to watch movies on long flights provided by the airline, but I generally lose interest in those before the ending. I guess I’d rather physically hold and read a book and create my own movie in my mind.

I was curious to understand the meaning of lower latency, and the article did not disappoint: Latency measures how long a signal takes to go from its source to its receiver, and then back again… New 5G networks will have even lower latency than 4G LTE, with the round-trip transmission of data taking less than five milliseconds…5G latency will be faster than human visual processing…agriculture, manufacturing, and logistics will all benefit from lower latency. 

Do I sound like a guy who needs that type of speed…or even want it? But I guess there is good news for the cows that live just across my backyard fence. I’m sure their owners can count on them gaining weight and having more calves now that their existence will be influenced by living under a 5G wireless network. 

One should not accept just one side of any story, so I spent some time online investigating disadvantages of 5G technology, and surprisingly, at least to me, I could not find recent articles with that information, with all accounts being from one to two years old. After that frustrating attempt to become more informed, I was able to ascertain, from older articles, that disadvantages do exist, with the number one 5G downside being that compatible devices are expensive, which is a true negative, especially for folks with limited disposable income. 

Indeed, when we first received the bad news from our cell phone provider, my wife performed some preliminary research into 5G cell phones compatible with me and the network, meaning small and uncomplicated, and a phone similar to the one I had would cost about three times more money than my old phone did. It’s possible that 5G technology may price some consumers out of the market, at least until they can save the funds necessary to buy a phone and a plan that meets their needs. My guess is that those folks will not be at all happy with the switch, when they have to choose between a cell phone and food and clothes for themselves and their family.

To be fair, later Gayla found a compatible flip phone for about eighty dollars, and so it appears that now I am good to go with 5G.

I was also curious about medical devices that are connected to the internet. For example, does the transition affect those folks with pacemakers? So, I did a little research in that direction, but I could not find any recent research with respect to that question, and what little information I gleaned from older sources indicated that the answer would be probably not.

However, I did find copious amounts of praise for the medical advantages of switching to a 5G network, in ways of which I certainly wasn’t aware. So, from that perspective, we should all be grateful. As the recipient of improved medical technology that no doubt saved my life a few years ago, I can’t in good conscience bemoan improved technology that may save or improve the lives of others. Hypocrisy is not a good look on anyone.

With a new flip phone in my pocket now, it appears I’m all set. That is, until new technology renders my new phone obsolete, and if history repeats itself, which it always seems to, that will be sooner rather than later.

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