As 5G technology moves into real-world implementation the problems it faces are not only becoming clearer but also more concrete. What were once theoretical challenges—things to be solved another day—are now materializing as real barriers to faster adoption and application. But, despite the problems that are emerging with 5G, the technology is likely to persist and continue to gain wider implementation and adoption.

As it does, it’s clear that well-planned structured wired networks in residential, commercial, and industrial spaces will be more important than ever as a reliable alternative to wireless internet. It will also help 5G overcome some of its limitations, as wired networks will be needed to supplement 5G as it struggles to penetrate buildings and between floors, or in areas where 5G signals may be restricted altogether such as near airports.

Here’s a quick look at three significant 5G problems that are emerging as real challenges to overcome.

Limited range and penetration

There’s no question that 5G can transmit data at incredibly high speeds with low latency. This is possible, however, only in an ideal environment where 5G is optimized to overcome its two biggest limitations: short range and poor penetration.

5G uses millimeter waves that have a comparatively short range of around 1,000 feet. Compare that with 4G’s range of around 10 miles. Complicating things even more for 5G is the fact that mmWave frequencies above 28GHz have trouble penetrating things like walls.

This means for ideal 5G speeds, antennas and transmitters will need to be placed just about everywhere, even inside buildings. Even then, it’s likely that only users in close proximity to a 5G antenna will receive optimal speeds.

Potential health risks

There are countless—increasingly outlandish—conspiracies claiming 5G technology is dangerous, or even that it’s the cause of the coronavirus pandemic. The problem with these conspiracy theories is they overshadow some very real concerns about 5G—and mobile radiation in general—that’s growing within the scientific community.

The primary concerns revolve around what is considered to be safe exposure limits to radio frequency radiation (RFR). There is an emerging view among scientists who specialize in the health effects of nonionizing electromagnetic fields (EMF) that the current limits are already too high, even for 3G and 4G technology.

The worry with 5G is that, due to its use of low-power and short-range millimeter waves, exposure will increase significantly as 5G antennas will be needed every 100 to 200 meters.

Airport exclusion zones

Recently, decisions in both the United States and Canada have placed big question marks around the use of 5G near airports.

In the U.S., flights have already been cancelled as airlines have asked the Federal Aviation Administration, FCC, and Biden administration to delay 5G rollouts near airports. In Canada, the Federal Government announced 5G towers and frequencies will be restricted in specific areas around airports.

The concern from airlines and aviation experts is that signals from 5G technology use a new spectrum frequency that’s very close to the frequency used by altimeters in flight guidance systems.

5G has already been rolled out near airports in more than 40 countries around the world but the outcome of this issue in the US and Canada could have far-reaching implications, even causing other national aviation agencies to reevaluate the use of 5G around airports.

Final resolution of the conflict between the two industries will not be easy to mandate and may take until the end of 2022.