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5G taking baby steps

The race to provide ultrafast cell service in the Medford area is ramping up.

The city of Medford is about to issue its third agreement over the past year and a half to install newer types of cell towers throughout the city.

On Thursday, Medford City Council will consider granting a franchise to SQF LLC, a Delaware, Maryland, company, to install 5G network devices in the public right of way.

While 5G-enabled phones have begun hitting the market, there still is only limited 5G service in Jackson County, and it’s a slower version than what should be coming in the near future.

5G stands for fifth generation, and it is the next step in providing faster internet connections to mobile devices, though some critics have denounced it because of fears it can cause health problems, which most studies have shown are unfounded.

In addition to its increased speed, 5G also can handle a lot more devices simultaneously on its network.

However, not all 5G networks offer the promise of blazing fast speeds.

Cellphone companies have marketed different versions of 5G, though the ultra-fast versions are mostly available in major cities.

T-Mobile has a low-band 5G network locally that has faster speeds than the the 4G network that most people use.

Eric Mitton, deputy city attorney, said SQF is affiliated with U.S. Cellular.

Both Verizon and U.S. Cellular have separate franchise agreements to install additional 5G network devices in the city, he said.

Mitton said 5G requires more small devices to create a cell network compared to the larger cell towers for 4G.

He said the agreements the city has with various companies allows these 5G towers to be installed only in the public right of way, not on private land. Sometimes cell companies also create agreements with property owners to install the devices on their properties.

Heidi Flato, a spokeswoman for Verizon, said her company doesn’t currently offer 5G in the Medford area, and she didn’t provide any information about when it would be available.

U.S. Cellular didn’t provide any information about when it would provide 5G.

Jim Teece, president and chief executive officer of Ashland Home Net, Project A and Rogue Broadband, said true 5G is really designed for high-density urban areas.

Teece said the range of a 5G tower is about 1,000 feet, possibly up to 1,500, but the more familiar 4G towers work for about 10 miles.

Most of the Interstate 5 corridor through this area offers fast 4G connections, he said.

Teece said 5G has a number of advantages and allows for up to 100 times more users, with a lower latency, or time for the signal to travel, measured in milliseconds.

“In order for us to have the fifth generation, we have to have lots of these towers, and they have to be smaller,” he said.

Teece said some people have raised concerns about the health hazards from 5G, but most reputable studies have so far found these concerns are unwarranted.

In 2019, a New York Times article delved into concerns about the health effects from 5G and found that most of the information can be traced to a single scientist and a single chart, concluding that the information in the chart was wrong.

“We’re not going to go backward unless someone finds out there truly is a health problem,” Teece said.

But confusion about 5G because of marketing ploys by companies have created other problems.

Some Wi-Fi connections also claim to offer 5G, but Teece said it has nothing to do with the 5G for the cellular networks.

Also, many cellphone companies claim to offer 5G, but it’s a low-band version of the network, Teece said.

Teece said consumers are sucking up more and more bandwidth, and he acknowledged he’s one of them, watching football on his phone while he’s out and about. Video consumes a lot of bandwidth.

While it might be some time before Medford gets a robust 5G network, Teece said it has the promise to offer far greater connection speeds.

It’s a wonderful next step,” he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneAaron Hartman, a purchasing analysis specialist at Lithia, checks his phone Tuesday while on break at the Lithia Commons.