In the 5G-airline debacle, there's plenty of blame to go around

·4 min read

Recently, the reading public was treated to a news story featuring a man who complained that without 5G, he could not simultaneously stream a movie on his phone while exporting his photo album.

This hardship was treated in the article with the same gravity and mortification that is usually reserved for people in a tornado who have been impaled by flagpoles.

I fully acknowledge I’m not the best person to write about 5G because from the beginning, I've always had a bad attitude about cellphones. This should be apparent in that no one who is in the know calls them cellphones anymore.

Tim Rowland
Tim Rowland

In fact, they don’t call them anything. They use these vague, ethereal terms like “mobile” or “wireless” that don’t even connote a physical object, but instead suggest a ubiquity with no particular boundaries or definition, like smog.

I don’t recall if there were such a thing as 1G or 2G — I first remember them talking about 3G with the implication that if we just had that, all our lives would be perfect and there could be nothing more we would ever want. Then came 4G, with the same breathless language about the future having finally arrived.

But pretty soon that wasn’t good enough, and we all proclaimed that we would have 5G or die. The whole thing kind of reminds me of razor blades. Although it seems impossible today, there was a time when men shaved using razors that had just one blade. Can you believe it?

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I’m not a total throwback, I fully acknowledge that one blade was bad, in that you could never use it without there being blood. But I stopped at two. Razors with five blades squeezed into a head the size of a tennis racquet just seem weird.

But at least five-bladed razors don’t cause planes to crash.

The same can’t be said for 5G wavelengths, which, everyone just noticed about a minute ago, conflicts with aircraft altimeters. This stalled the whole grand 5G rollout for fear that airplanes would start dropping from the sky like cicadas.

At the very least, I’d think this would add a little excitement to a mode of transportation that has otherwise become insufferable. Since crowdsourcing is so popular these days, the co-pilot could survey everyone sitting in coach: “How far off the ground does everyone think we are now? Who says 500 feet? OK, who says 300? Who … uh oh.”

But the existence of cellphones seems to have taken the Federal Aviation Administration by surprise. Just days before it was supposed to go live, someone woke up a bureaucrat in Washington who said, “Five what now?”

Cellular companies responded by issuing news releases basically saying, “OK FAA, we’ll hold off for now, but man, are you stupid.”

Look, I would be perfectly prepared to blame this all on the government. That is, after all, my default position. But American communication companies in particular always seem to be about a million years behind the rest of the world. Didn’t Japan have high definition TV back in something like 1804?

They always try to sell us fantasies. They sell 4K TV, even though there are scarcely any 4K channels. They’ve been selling us 5G phones for a year now, forgetting to mention that there was scarcely any 5G service.

American wireless was still dropping calls long after the rest of the world had figured it out. Even today, in America, people still hunt for bars, walking around with their phones in the air like they are part of some religious cult.

So no, I don’t believe for one second that the wireless companies are blameless in all this.

Like I care. Three things are certain in this world: Death, taxes and the fact that I will hit PowerBall before I feel the need to stream a movie at the same time I’m exporting my photo album.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail: 5G rollout stall could be the fault of any number of groups

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