A free forum by Jordan Bardella (National Assembly), MEP
After a long wait in France, 5G should finally be deployed by the end of 2020, with the allocation of new frequencies to French operators by Arcep, the telecommunications regulator. There are a lot of fantasies about this new technology, as the recent catastrophist forum of left-wing elected officials who demand a moratorium showed. Without minimizing its potential risks, I want to affirm here the opportunity it represents for our country, for its attractiveness, for its industry, for its employment, and in fine for its power.
Compared to the previous generation of network standard, 5G does not represent a simple improvement but a change in nature. It will achieve an almost imperceptible latency time, and will thus open the way for many applications in fields which require instantaneous data exchange. The decisive contribution of 5G therefore goes far beyond simply improving the experience of using a smartphone with its “fridge”, as François Ruffin said.
The disappearance of the latency period will thus make possible the development of telesurgery, and telemedicine in general. 5G is already being used in China to perform real-time ultrasounds for patients living in remote areas of the country. This technology is one of the promising responses to the increasingly significant problem of medical deserts in France.
The industrial applications of 5G represent an opportunity to reindustrialize our country. It will improve the efficiency of PLCs, introduce artificial intelligence in factories, in short, lead France towards a more productive “industry 4.0”, positioned on high value-added production, and competitive in the face of to our foreign competitors. In addition, the quality of the technological infrastructures offered by France will obviously be a key element in encouraging companies to relocate their production in the years to come.
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5G will support the rise of artificial intelligence, for example by making it possible to design successful autonomous cars. During my visit to the Vedecom institute last June, I was able to observe that, in this area, France is at the forefront, as indeed in many other industrial sectors, despite what some claim. grumpy minds.
However, there is no question of taking an angelic look at this new technology. Its detractors, while sometimes excessive or ideological, also raise legitimate concerns.
The first concerns the environmental impact of 5G. The various innovations of 5G antennas, such as steerable antennas that emit only in the direction of the mobile in communication, will save 30% to 40% of electricity compared to the previous generation. However, the increase in speeds allowed by 5G will lead to an increase in usage, and therefore an increase in national electricity consumption. It is therefore essential to mobilize our nuclear fleet to allow the 5G network to operate with largely carbon-free electricity. Let us recall that nuclear power is a major industrial asset, making France one of the most virtuous countries in the world in terms of energy and the environment.
Beyond the use of nuclear energy, Arcep will have to ensure, when allocating frequencies, that operators undertake to deploy 5G antennas equipped with a watch system. This technology, made possible by the new generation antennas, will allow substantial energy savings. Arcep must encourage operators to deploy base stations that provide 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G functions at the same time, which will reduce the network’s electricity consumption by 30%. This solution implies an additional cost for the operators, but this will be amortized by the operating savings resulting from the reduction in energy consumption.
The arrival of 5G will require the renewal of smartphone equipment for most individuals. However, 47% of greenhouse gases generated by digital technology are due to consumer equipment. We must therefore seize the deployment of 5G as an opportunity to get out of our dependence on China for the production of electronic components, in order to be able to have cleaner components, and offering national industry. This is particularly the case for rare earths, 85% produced by China. For this, solutions exist: develop a rare earth recycling industry provided by French companies (we currently only recycle 1% of rare earths), fight against planned obsolescence, develop the recovery of waste from European mines to produce rare metals directly on the European continent.
Critics of 5G also point to its supposed harmful consequences on health. It is obviously necessary to continue to carry out studies to better assess its long-term impact. However, the current state of research provides sufficient guarantees to continue the deployment of 5G. The report published on 1er September by several French public institutions (the General Environment Council, the General Economic Council, the General Inspectorate of Finance) concluded that “there is no such thing, according to the consensus of national and international health agencies, of short-term proven adverse effects ”concerning these electromagnetic waves. No long-term effects were seen either. The 26 GHz frequency, which will be used by the network from 2026, is a priori less dangerous than the frequency band used by 4G, since it penetrates less human tissue. In addition, like 4G, 5G will be subject by Arcep to compliance with a maximum exposure threshold to electromagnetic waves.
Another risk, less mentioned, is the possibility of a worsening of the digital divide during the deployment of the 5G network, while there is still no ambitious policy to cover gray areas in France. Reducing the digital divide will have to be an essential criterion for the allocation of 5G frequencies. Arcep should require operators that at least one third of the sites equipped with 3.5 GHz frequencies are located in rural or industrial areas.
The deployment of 5G on French territory must therefore take place while respecting the rules of prudence. On the ecological transition, on health, on the digital divide, we must remain vigilant, but we can overcome the risks posed by this new technology, far from the collapsology homilies of a part of the left. The moratorium recently proposed by the Green Ayatollahs is irresponsible because time is running out. In the era of the knowledge economy, where the power of a nation rests more and more on the control and security of data as well as on new technologies, the abusive and demagogic use of the precautionary principle we causes an irreversible delay to accumulate. A delay that leads us to a world where the United States innovates, where China copies, and where Europe is content to regulate. While the first two are investing heavily in innovation and research, Europe, the continent that gave the world the world’s greatest discoverers, engineers and scientists, can only project its future through Greta Thunberg.