Key Terms and Descriptions


The wavelength of a transverse wave is the distance between two adjacent, corresponding points. For example, the wavelength can be measured by determining the distance between adjacent crests or adjacent troughs. In other words, it is the length of one complete wave cycle. The wavelength and frequency of a transverse wave are inversely proportional, meaning the longer the wavelength, the lower the frequency and the shorter the wavelength, the higher the frequency.


The frequency of a transverse wave is defined by the number of wave cycles that occur per second and is measured in units of cycles per second also known as Hertz (Hz). The wavelength and frequency of a transverse wave are inversely proportional, meaning the longer the wavelength, the lower the frequency and the shorter the wavelength, the higher the frequency.

EMF — Electromagnetic field

In general, a “field” is any physical quantity that has different values at different points in space. Therefore, electromagnetic fields can be simply thought of as a mathematical function that describes the strength of the field and the direction of the field at different positions and times.

Static Electromagnetic fields

Static electromagnetic fields are electromagnetic fields that do not change in field strength or direction over time. They do not emit radiation and as such, they are described as having a frequency of 0 Hertz (Hz).

Variable Electromagnetic fields

Variable electromagnetic fields are electromagnetic fields that change in magnitude or direction over time. As such, variable electric fields are defined as electric fields that change in magnitude or direction over time and are produced by variable magnetic fields.

EMR — Electromagnetic radiation

Electromagnetic radiation consists of oscillating electric and magnetic fields that propagate through space. Oscillation or oscillatory motion is defined as the periodic variation of magnitude or position around a central value, typically with respect to time. In the case of electromagnetic waves, oscillation refers to the variation of the electric and magnetic fields. From low to high frequency, the electromagnetic radiation spectrum consists of radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, x-rays and gamma rays.

Ionization energy

Ionization energy is defined as the amount of energy that is required to remove an electron from an atom or molecule.

Non-ionizing radiation

Electromagnetic radiation can be categorized into ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Non-ionizing radiation has longer wavelengths, lower frequencies and less energy, compared to ionizing radiation. It is called non-ionizing because it cannot ionize matter — meaning it does not have enough energy to remove electrons from atoms or molecules. However, exposure to non-ionizing radiation such as radiofrequency radiation can result in a wide range of adverse health effects.

ELF — Extremely low frequency

The ELF range consists of frequencies between 3 Hz and 3 kHz. Common sources include power lines, electrical wiring and electrical equipment.

RF — Radiofrequency

Generally, the radiofrequency range is defined as the range of frequencies between 3 kHz and 300 GHz. Common sources include smartphones, cell towers, radios, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, smart meters, microwave ovens and IoT devices such as door cameras and baby monitors.


WiFi is a radiofrequency signal that is used to create a wireless local network, and the WiFi router allows devices authenticated on the local network to then connect to the internet. Radiofrequency signals are sent from a wireless router to nearby WiFi-enabled devices, such as a smartphone or tablet. A wireless router, although itself connected to the internet via a cable, transmits signals wirelessly to nearby devices which then convert the radiofrequency signals into information that can be interpreted by the user. These signals are sent back and forth between the router and the device, forming an active connection.

A WiFi network is formed when a wireless router, the central hub of the network, enables multiple WiFi-enabled devices to communicate with each other and share an internet connection. This allows devices connected via the same WiFi network to “interact,” e.g., allowing a user to print a document from a computer without having to connect the two devices with a wire.

Most WiFi routers use either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz frequencies to transmit signals to and from the router, which correspond to wavelengths of approximately 12 centimeters, and 6 centimeters, respectively. The range of a WiFi router depends on many different factors, such as the strength of the transmitter, the presence of physical obstructions and the protocol it runs on. Therefore, physical barriers such as walls and metals can significantly reduce the range of a WiFi network by around 25% or more. Generally, the range of a router that operates on a 2.4 GHz band will extend up to 150 feet indoors and 300 feet outdoors, while the range of a router operating on a 5 GHz band, will be around 10 to 15 feet less.


Bluetooth uses radiofrequency signals that enable devices to connect and exchange data over a relatively short distance such as connecting a mouse and keyboard to your computer wirelessly or connecting your smartphone to your car without a wire. Similar to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth signals use frequencies of approximately 2.4 GHz, which correspond to wavelengths of around 12 centimeters. In order to establish a Bluetooth connection, a device such as a Bluetooth speaker transmits signals that can be detected by other Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as a smartphone. Once the smartphone discovers the device, such as the speaker, the devices can “pair” via a Bluetooth signal, and data can be exchanged between the devices. In the case of a speaker and smartphone, sound can be projected from the Bluetooth speaker, rather than the smartphone’s built-in speaker.

Mobile networks

Like WiFi and Bluetooth, mobile networks use radio frequency signals to transmit information between devices, however, there are key differences. Mobile networks are different from WiFi networks in that signals are not transmitted to and from a single central hub to a small network of devices, such as a WiFi router. They are also different from Bluetooth technology in that signals are not transmitted directly from one device to another.

Rather, mobile networks consist of many overlapping geographic regions called “cells,” each of which contain a base station that allows a device to temporarily authenticate and use the base station as a gateway to the wireless provider’s core network. If the device moves out of the range of one base station it is “handed off” to the next appropriate base station. Base stations form an interconnected global network of transmitters and receivers (transceivers) which are used to transmit voice, text and digital data between devices on the provider’s network or on other interconnected networks.


Artificial satellites are objects in space that are launched into orbit around the Earth using rockets. They have a variety of functions and are generally used for navigation systems, commonly known as GPS, weather forecasting, Earth and space observation and communications. Communication satellites are used to service TV, phones and the internet. Currently, there are around 5 thousand satellites orbiting Earth, approximately 3 thousand of which belong to the U.S. A satellite operates by transmitting and receiving radiofrequency signals from ground stations on the Earth.


Electricity from the grid is delivered from power plants to homes and buildings via power lines, usually operating at extremely low frequencies of 50 or 60 Hz. Power lines generally use alternating current (AC), which is a type of current that periodically reverses directions and continuously changes its magnitude. As electrical energy is transferred via the powerlines, they emit electric and magnetic fields. The electric field is present as long as the power line is operational. The magnetic field is dependent on voltage and load current or demand, the latter of which is determined by the amount of energy being used at any given time, resulting in significantly different field strengths at different points in time.

High voltage transmission lines carry high current, emitting powerful electric and magnetic fields. While electric fields poorly penetrate common building materials, magnetic fields are able to deeply penetrate most materials. As distance from the source increases, in this case, distance from the power lines, the strength of the magnetic field decreases. A multitude of health effects from power lines have been reported, including an increase in Alzheimer’s disease, miscarriage, childhood leukemia and protein and DNA reactions.

Electrical devices

Common electrical devices and appliances such as TVs, computers, hairdryers, kettles, toaster ovens, refrigerators and washing machines are sources of extremely low frequency EMFs.

5G — Fifth Generation Mobile Network

5G is the 5th Generation of mobile network technology after 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G. 5G technology can handle traditional cellular frequencies and higher frequency bands not previously used by mobile systems. A 5G network can operate in these bands:

  • Low band: Less than 1 GHz.
  • Mid band: 1 to 6 GHz.
  • High band: 24 to 95 GHz.
  • Unlicensed bands: 6 GHz and above 95 GHz.

While the low and mid band frequencies overlap with 4G wireless networks, the high band uses millimeter waves that have not been deployed in previous generations of mobile networks. 5G networks also introduce more pulsed microwave radiation (PMR) signals which are a known health risk. Additionally, many 5G networks overlay 4G networks, thereby increasing overall EMF exposure. Proponents of 5G claim that it will deliver higher data speeds and ultra low latency. It deploys a variety of new technologies including millimeter waves (MMW), small cells, massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO), beamforming phased arrays and full duplex.

MMW — Millimeter Waves

Millimeter waves (MMW) correspond to the part of the RF spectrum with wavelengths between one and ten millimeters. On the extreme ends of this range, one millimeter waves correspond to 300 GHz, and ten millimeter waves correspond to 30 GHz.

Small cells

The telecommunications industry is pushing for denser networks to bring faster and higher quality connectivity to more customers, through the deployment of small cell technology. Small cells are individual wireless transmitters distributed roughly every 100-450 meters. Before 5G, most wireless networks were built using a system of macro transmitters in the form of cellular towers. The 5G network, however, uses both cellular towers and small cells.

According to the telecommunication industry, small cells will deliver superior coverage and signal penetration in the densest urban areas, such as downtown areas, shopping centers and college campuses. These small cells and 5G networks will also support a large portion of the anticipated huge increase in wireless communications created by the Internet of Things. 5G-IoT is promoted by the promise of “smart” cities, leading to what will supposedly be a more convenient and efficient life.

IoT — Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a massive network of real-world objects that are embedded with sensors and other types of technology, to collect information about the physical environment of the object, for the purpose of analyzing and exchanging that information with other devices via the internet. In other words, the IoT can be thought of as the transformation of objects into internet-enabled devices. The term “IoT” was coined by Kevin Ashton who states, “In the twentieth century, computers were brains without senses — they only knew what we told them. That was a huge limitation: there is many billion times more information in the world than people could possibly type in through a keyboard or scan with a barcode. In the twenty-first century, because of the Internet of Things, computers can sense things for themselves.”

IoB — Internet of Bodies

The World Economic Forum (WEF) describes the Internet of Bodies as “the network of human bodies and data through connected sensors.” It further states that these sensors can be “attached to, implanted within or ingested into human bodies to monitor, analyze and even modify human bodies and behavior.”


Bandwidth is the maximum amount of data that can be transmitted over a medium, such as an internet connection, in a given amount of time.

Ultra-low latency

Latency is the measure of the time it takes a signal to travel from the source to the destination, and back again. 4G networks have an average latency of 50 milliseconds, while 5G is proposed to have an average latency of 10 milliseconds.

Data harvesting

Data harvesting is the process of extracting and analyzing large sets of data collected from internet-connected devices. This combined with the concept of IoT and IoB, essentially gives data harvesters and miners the ability to extract a massive and diverse range of valuable and personal information about individuals. As more information becomes accessible through the increased use of wirelessly connected devices, the greater the potential will be for security and privacy threats.

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