back to article In a race to 5G, Trump has stuck a ball-and-chain on America's leg

President Donald Trump's trade war with China may come with a serious cost to America's next-generation cellular networks, a federal regulator has warned. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel told a conference audience on Thursday that part of the new tariffs announced by the White House against China will include 25 per cent …

  1. Florida1920 Silver badge

    Experts

    They're everywhere, self-proclaimed experts who don't know the difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. "We don't need evidence, we're experts!"

    1. Haku

      Re: Experts

      Many of us are actually experts, but usually it's in a field where there are no awards or qualifications being handed out.

      I'm still waiting for my 'Posting Crap Online' award, something I've been doing for over 22 years, I must've picked up several by now...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Experts

      Microwave ovens don't use ionising radiation but would you stick your head in one?

      1. Florida1920 Silver badge

        Re: Experts

        Microwave ovens don't use ionising radiation but would you stick your head in one?
        Do you understand the differences between a cell phone and a microwave oven? If not, I'm glad you're not making dinner.

        1. RobHib

          Re: Experts - @ Florida1920

          "Do you understand the differences between a cell phone and a microwave ‎‎oven? If not, I'm glad you're not making dinner.

          I couldn't let this question pass without comment. …And the answer: yes, over ‎‎three orders of magnitude in power levels between them I'd reckon. It's the ‎‎key point here. ‎

          ‎1. Non-ionising RF/EMR power does affect living tissue through ‎‎‎'primarily' heating effects. I say 'primarily' because whilst there's ‎‎conjecture about the existence of other effects on health being caused by very ‎‎low power EMR, there's still precious little agreement among experts as to ‎‎whether they actually exist even after many years of research (let alone not having ‎‎discovered and or quantified their modus operandi).‎

          ‎2. At the low power levels of cell phones, health effects are demonstrably ‎‎negligible. Why? Well, we've had radio communication and RF devices since ‎‎the beginning of the 20th C. and we've no demonstrable evidence of people ‎‎dropping dead because of the increase in background EMR. If effects are there ‎‎then they're pretty close to noise/background levels.‎

          ‎3. The definition of 'low power' and the amount of time one is exposed ‎‎thereto—i.e.: what's deemed to be a safe level of cumulative exposure—is ‎‎debatable. Exposure guidelines exist for both ionising and non-ionising ‎‎radiation; these vary by circumstance. The matter is comparatively clear-cut ‎‎with ionising radiation, it's why nuclear workers wear dosimeters and why ‎‎we've a unit of measurement of radiation as it pertains to its effect on health—‎‎the sievert. With non-ionising radiation, the matter is less clear for reasons I ‎‎explain below.‎

          ‎4. With both non-ionising and ionising radiation the level of one's exposure ‎‎always matters, the more one is exposed the more likely one will experience ill ‎‎effects. Despite decades of research, it is still unknown whether there's any ‎‎threshold level below which non-ionising radiation is completely safe. The ‎‎matter is much more poignant with ionising radiation as none of us can escape ‎‎the natural background level of ionising radiation that's caused by cosmic rays, ‎‎etc. ‎

          ‎5. Essentially, there are four parameters when determining EMR exposure ‎‎levels: power, frequency, length of exposure and concentration across an area ‎‎of tissue (and or within a given volume of it). The higher the EMR frequency ‎‎the more dangerous the radiation as the effective Energy (Joules) of each ‎‎quanta increases with frequency according to E=hv where h is ‎‎Planck's const. and v is frequency. This is why radio waves can become ‎‎ionising radiation if their frequency is increased high enough—it's why say AM ‎‎radio waves are not ionising and gamma radiation is.‎

          ‎6. The 2.45 GHz EMR from microwave ovens, whilst non-ionising, is more ‎‎dangerous than is say that of AM radio broadcasting (≈0.5—1.6 MHz). Whilst ‎‎individual quanta at microwave frequencies have more energy than those of ‎‎AM radio, the main reason for the danger is that their shorter wavelength ‎‎makes it easier for them to be concentrated onto a small area of tissue. It's ‎‎why I was once instructed never to look into a microwave waveguide even if ‎‎the power was only a fraction of a watt as the eye is extremely susceptible to ‎‎such heating injuries [same with lasers]. One would never consider an ‎AM ‎radio transmitter of say only one watt to be similarly dangerous (in ‎practice, ‎EMR from an AM TX is not as dangerous as the effectively equivalent ‎amount ‎of microwave radiation).‎

          ‎7. That said, cell phones work at the lower end of the microwave spectrum, ‎‎which is some three orders of magnitude higher in frequency to AM broadcasting and ‎‎thus we need to consider this fact. As a reminder, I would point out that my ‎‎occupational exposure to high EMR radiation that I mentioned in my earlier ‎‎post above was some 2/2.5 orders of magnitude higher in frequency than ‎‎AM—exposure that's had no known or observable effect on me or my co-‎‎workers even after a span of decades.‎

          ‎8. None of this stuff is new; we've known from at least WW-II that if power ‎‎levels are sufficiently high then the heating effects of microwaves are ‎‎dangerous. This became evident after military personnel found that they could ‎‎warm themselves by standing in front of RADAR antennae that radiated peak ‎‎pulse powers of between 10 and 50 kW or even higher and suffered the ‎‎consequences (internal burning, etc.). Similarly, there are stories of people ‎‎being accidentally locked in tank circuit rooms/enclosures of HF broadcasting ‎‎transmitters and essentially being 'melted' by RF.‎

          In summary, these horror stories involve EMR power levels that are orders of ‎‎magnitude higher than any cell phone is capable of producing and thus are ‎‎essentially irrelevant here. As I see it, if the matter of the health effects of ‎‎minuscule amounts of non-ionising EMR cannot be resolved to the satisfaction ‎‎of sufficient numbers within a reasonable timeframe then perhaps we should ‎‎put signs on phones warning of potential dangers. It's just possible this might ‎‎even spawn additional health benefits—by reducing the number of phone ‎‎addicts—an addiction that seemingly afflicts a majority of users. ;-)‎

          Alternatively, we just ignore the entire hullabaloo over virtually nothing and ‎‎eventually it'll die a natural death (in the same way that when passenger trains ‎‎became common in the 19th C. some thought that the human body ‎‎couldn't travel at such high speeds without injury, and later when cars were ‎‎first introduced and were only licensed to travel on roads if a man walked ‎‎before them with a flag)! ‎

      2. DougS Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Experts

        Microwave ovens don't use ionising radiation but would you stick your head in one?

        Sure, as long as it is my microwave oven. I don't trust yours, you seem too eager to get me to stick my head in there so you've probably rigged it so it can turn on with the door open!

      3. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Experts

        Microwave ovens don't use ionising radiation but would you stick your head in one?

        No, because I know the difference between 1000W and 250mW and have heard of the inverse-square law. Have you?

        Yep. The only thing worse is the "experts" who think that non-ionizing radiation is, axiomatically, "safe", regardless of dosage.

        Florida1920 said nothing about non-ionizing radiation being automatically safe. Why did you choose to read it this way?

        Fucking hell. It's the same old shit every time this subject comes up. Do we just get different people every time or does no-one bother to pay attention and do a bit of basic reading? Still, at least it's not vaccines or Brexit...

        1. TonyJ Silver badge

          Re: Experts

          "...Still, at least it's not vaccines or Brexit..."

          You forgot chemtrails...

          Edit: Oh and the Earth is flat! Forgot that one, too.

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Experts

            "Oh and the Earth is flat! Forgot that one, too."

            /me withholds an additional comment slamming on those who actually believe in man-made....

            heh - see icon

        2. Christoph Silver badge

          Re: Experts

          "Fucking hell. It's the same old shit every time this subject comes up. Do we just get different people every time or does no-one bother to pay attention and do a bit of basic reading? Still, at least it's not vaccines or Brexit...

          Don't worry, just tell them that if they get cancer we can easily cure it by giving them some distilled water that was once in the same room as something or other and is therefore a miracle cure.

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Experts

            Don't worry, just tell them that if they get cancer we can easily cure it by giving them some distilled water that was once in the same room as something or other and is therefore a miracle cure.

            Good point, Gwyneth. Thank you.

            ;-)

    3. veti Silver badge

      Re: Experts

      Yep. The only thing worse is the "experts" who think that non-ionizing radiation is, axiomatically, "safe", regardless of dosage.

      1. Florida1920 Silver badge

        Re: Experts

        Yep. The only thing worse is the "experts" who think that non-ionizing radiation is, axiomatically, "safe", regardless of dosage.
        There are billions of cell phones in the world. We aren't seeing a significant increase in brain cancer. While not absolute proof, I have no fears about using mine. You're more at risk texting while driving or walking.

        https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/radiation/cell-phones-fact-sheet#q4

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Coffee/keyboard

          Re: Experts

          I always wanted to get my grubby little mitts on a AVO of my own.

          I recall one being pulled out of the way by the deputy manager at Exeter airport, seconds before a DC3 being towed out of the hanger ran over it.

          He furiously demanded to know who had signed it out (Over 3 weeks ago) & who was responsible for it's almost total destruction (No culprit was ever discovered, since the initial sign out).

        2. Grinning Bandicoot

          Re: Experts

          Not seeing a rise in brain cancer but we sure are seeing a rise in stupidity. The snowflakes have trouble paying attention to anything tat does not have flashing colors and bells and bings.

    4. RobHib

      Re: Experts

      Right, the trouble is we give oxygen to these nutters by actually publicising them. It'd better to just ignore them completely, as no amount of evidence will change a zealot's cemented-on views.

      BTW, years ago, I used to work on top of TV/FM towers whilst they were broadcasting. The near field RF voltage gradient was sufficiently high that my digital watch's LCD used to go black and the RF would burn holes in my jeans at the knees when I wrapped myself around the tower pole (I could see arcs from my knees to the pole—the RF burned but didn't shock). Digital multimeters wouldn't work as the RF rendered them useless, the only electrical instrument that would was an analog meter—an AVO-8—which used a copper oxide rectifier whose frequency response cut off a little above audio frequencies. Judge for yourself whether non-ionising radiation addles or scrambles the brain. Could a scrambled brain actually write these words?

      [Now, please don't start an argument over RF and its heating effects, those of us in the RF game are all aware of cases where people have come to grief due to long exposure to extreme levels of RF, trouble is there's so few of them that we usually can't even cite references.]

    5. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Experts

      ack on the 'experts'.

      Ex = "has been"

      spurt = "big drip"

      I bet none of them know what their expected yearly dose of ionizing radiation is, just for being on the surface of the planet, and where it might be higher, and under what circumstances, yotta yotta yotta...

      [when I was in the navy, it was measured at 80-100mrem per year for just being on the surface of the earth, and always lower than that while on the sub EVEN WHILE THE REACTOR WAS RUNNING. That's right, on a NUCLEAR sub, while underway, ionizing radiation levels were LOWER than what you normally get from Mr. Sun. I forget how to convert that to the new measurements, but who cares. it's like 100REM=1S or something like that]

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, the irony

    The Postmodern Witchcraft Association (people who rail against newfangled stuff they don't understand and blame it for whatever ails people) are on about the same intellectual level as the mercantilist Trumptards. There's a good conspiracy theory in here somewhere, but with Alex Jones being suppressed we may never know what it is!

    1. Joe W

      Re: Ah, the irony

      If they would not really against more sensible things as well I would be tempted to support their war on 5G. Especially at this point in time. We don't even have decent 4G coverage, and that's less expensive to install, and this means that 5G will be even more patchy. The standard is not fully fixed, the article notes, and you will end up with incompatible kit deployed.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Ah, the irony

        Yeah, but the telecoms companies wouldn't make as much profit.

  3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    FAIL

    THz broadband

    The latest argument is that ultra-high frequency, ultra-high bandwidth will solve fixed broadband problems. Nevermind that the range is shorter than Cat 6.

    1. Joe Montana

      Re: THz broadband

      Shorter than cat6, but cheaper to deploy because it involves less digging up of the street...

      Ofcourse it's still worse than fixed lines, you can always add more physical cables to handle greater traffic or greater numbers of users in the same area. You can't increase the available wireless spectrum within a given area, and the actual service area is smaller than the area in which the spectrum is used.

      Wireless should only be used when wired isn't available, the aim should always be to deploy wired services wherever possible...

      Lots of places are pushing wireless services, and they work great initially but once lots of users get on board the service becomes unusable with poor throughput and unpredictable latency spikes.

      You can add more physical cables, but you can't create additional wireless spectrum.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: THz broadband

        "Wireless should only be used when wired isn't available"

        Agreed. The known laws of physics heavily imply that wireless will always be inferior to wired in every way except that radio doesn't require wires.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: THz broadband

      AT&T's AirGig technology will solve a lot more broadband problems (in the US at least) than 5G ever will. The problem in rural areas of the US isn't getting faster technologies to the towers, or towers closer to where people live. It is getting bandwidth to the towers - many rural towers are connected by copper (T1, usually) and don't have fiber. It is prohibitively expensive to run fiber to them, and will never make economic sense to spend a half million dollars running fiber to a tower that will only be able to serve a handful of households.

      AirGig solves that by running multi gigabit (up to 90 Gbps in testing so far) along power lines - not in the wires, they are merely waveguides, the actual signal is outside the wires. There are simple devices that clamp onto the outside of a power line, and "steal" power from it, and you need one about every three poles. They are quick and cheap to deploy. The biggest issue will be legal - AT&T will have to get permission to attach those to power lines, and the utility will probably want a cut of the action in exchange. Though a lot of rural users are served by small cooperatives, so their customers could vote to invite AT&T to set them up for free. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out.

  4. 45RPM Silver badge

    I don’t understand…

    …I thought he said that trade wars are easy to win? He didn’t say which side for, of course. Presumably, if you’re on the wrong side, then they’re easy to lose too. Which would mean that trade wars are hard to win, from one perspective. But if both sides are trying to win then maybe it’s easy for both sides to lose and…

    …my brain hurts.

    1. TonyJ Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: I don’t understand…

      "...…I thought he said that trade wars are easy to win? He didn’t say which side for, of course. Presumably, if you’re on the wrong side, then they’re easy to lose too. Which would mean that trade wars are hard to win, from one perspective. But if both sides are trying to win then maybe it’s easy for both sides to lose and…

      …my brain hurts..."

      You're making it far to complicated.

      Look: "Winning!"

      Fixed it. I mean, that's all it takes, surely? Easy!

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Stop

    remind me why we need China for 5G...

    just saying, why do we need China for 5G anyway? After all, if they're not giong to honor OUR patents, why should we honor THEIRS?

    Seems to me that if they're effectively tarriff'd out of business, we can do pretty much anything we want to, in the USA, without them.

    I believe OUR engineers are actually BETTER than their engineers [it has to do with the downsides of living under communism and other oppressive gummints], so if they want a techno-war to see who "gets there" first, LET THEM, *especially* given the extra costs involved with having China do it vs having a U.S. company do it. Things might just favor the U.S. companies in the long run. Or UK or any EU companies for that matter.

    And why do we need China to build things anyway? 'Lights out' U.S. factories and maquiladoras have a better chance of being profitable solutions as compared to trusting those behind 'the great firewall' not to try and control us at some point, or drive domestic businesses out of existence with 'dumping' tactics.

    I like doing things with China when they're operating on the same level. However, when they continue to pay slave-wages to their employees, while a small number of people become super-rich by allowing their gummint to control things, and they ALSO use their market share to leverage the situation internationally, dictate terms, drive others out of business, own nearly all of the supply chains, and ALSO not honor intellectual property and charge unnecessary tariffs on imported goods [while expecting NO tariffs on their exports], I say it's best NOT to involve them at all until they decide to play by the rules.

    And if they want to play nice again, I'm sure the import tariffs will go away. But not before.

    So: WHY do we need China to develop 5G? I say we do NOT!

    1. jmch Silver badge

      Re: remind me why we need China for 5G...

      What's the rush for 5G anyway?

      4G eg LTE-A can support down speeds up to 1000Mb/s (half that on uplink). 25Mb/sec is enough for a UHD stream. 4G is quite enough for the next 3-5 years, networks should be focusing on increasing 4G coverage and upgrading their backhaul infrastructure before starting to think about 5G.

      I'm not such a luddite to think "why do we need 5G at all?" because I know that applications will expand to make use of the increased bandwidth. But there is also a limit beyond which benefits of faster and faster speeds start to taper off, and it's useless to have gigantic peak speeds if hardly anyone can use them because your backhaul network can barely handle 4G as soon as more than a dozen users are on a cell.

    2. HamsterNet

      Re: remind me why we need China for 5G...

      I will remind you.

      1) Economies of scale: China will use its government-owned and well-funded telecoms to roll out 5G, like they have 4G to Everywhere in China. This represents way more sales than the whole of the USA.

      In responce to the rest of yoru rant.

      2) Wages whilst may be way lower than the USA, poverty rates are way lower in China than the USA.

      3) America complaining about another country not following international laws is the definitaion of hypocritical.

      1. Palladium

        Re: remind me why we need China for 5G...

        The US can't plan a long term strategy worth a damn, they don't even realize all the tariffs do is to make China putting even more effort into their developing their high tech industries to reduce foreign dependence as if they aren't already massively into doing it already.

        I live in Singapore, and now Shenzhen makes it look like a backwater. For those still underestimating China as a sh**hole, let them enjoy being clueless for now because they won't even know what's gonna hit them in the next decade.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: remind me why we need China for 5G...

      "Seems to me that if they're effectively tarriff'd out of business, we can do pretty much anything we want to, in the USA, without them."

      If the US wants to go it alone, with different standards to the rest of the world, then that's just fine. The rest of the world will go with the standard that costs the least for the same results. In a trade/IP war with China, who do you think will be able to sell at the lowest cost for the longest time period, probably below cost, to the rest of the world, the US or China?

      Obviously it's way more complicated than that in reality, but for better or worse we are in a global market now. Stupid spats like Trumps trade war are not "easy to win" because every countrys economy is intertwined with the economies of many other countries, both allies and "enemies".

    4. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: remind me why we need China for 5G...

      "And why do we need China to build things anyway?"

      Because they have the factories. The US could manufacture these components, of course, but to do so requires that we construct new factories, train workers, develop a new distribution network, and fill the pipeline.

      All that is totally doable, but it would take at least a decade to make happen. In the meantime, we'd still need the existing manufacturers.

  6. thesykes

    Local news

    Got to love the local newspaper article linked in the story.

    The nice big photo of a lampost, with the caption "A lampost" is quality journalism at its best.

  7. Roland6 Silver badge

    Lessons (not) learnt...

    You would have thought that after the US sub-prime mortgage crisis and the events across the world it precipitated, people would have been more aware of just how interdependent the modern world is. It seems that whilst the 'worlds' media (okay I'm sure there are some countries not watching) focus on the UK leaving the EU, they are missing the bigger story as Trump tries and takes the US out of the World....

  8. gnarlymarley

    standard stabilization?

    Maybe this will stabilize the standard. I realize that most of us prefer to purchase new phones every two months, but I would like something that lasts. If the Tariffs work, maybe we can get something that might last longer and the rest of us can actually purchase a cell phone that will last twenty years.

    1. HamsterNet

      Re: standard stabilization?

      You can have a 20-year phone that works today, it's an 8210, but will probably be down to just 2 bars of battery now.

  9. Grinning Bandicoot

    More than one way to conduct a trade war

    Its seems to be forgotten that China introduced export quotas on rare earths several years ago limiting both solar panel and processor chip production. I have had unconfirmed reports the the Mountain Pass Mine in Taxafornia is Chinese controlled and currently being modernized for the last 5 years and an indefinite future to completion.

    1. Grinning Bandicoot

      Re: More than one way to conduct a trade war

      One thing that I had missed mentioning is that the Mountain Pass was a major Western Hemisphere of the rare earths and the export quotas started shortly after the shut down.

      There are several reports from reputable sources that Chinese are deep inverters in Silicon Valley venture firms. Beats stealing patents

  10. Kicker of Metaphorical Cats

    Blame game is beyond old

    How come whomever is cleaning up someone else's mess gets the blame? US goods have been getting spanked for years while rules allow other countries to dump goods in to the US market devaluing US made products. I am not saying that I am happy about any of the current instability, but I am saying that I was frigging pissed for years that China has been ripping off the US market by duplicating US patented products and dumping the clones on the US market.

    Down vote button is right here:

    ........\/ \/.......

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