Do we really need 5G mobile networks? Ask GDPR and seahorses

Telecom companies say that the world needs mountains of new, way faster, Fifth Generation (=5G) mobile networks to cope with the unavoidable arrival of the Internet of Things. GDPR and seahorses may disagree.

Telecom analysts say that two years from now there will be more than twice Internet-connected things than two years ago, demanding to exchange 44 Zettabytes of data across (mostly) mobile networks.

Do we really need 5G mobile networks? Ask GDPR and seahorses /img/worldwidegrowth-in-connected-things-and-data.jpg
Run for your life! Billions of Connected Devices are coming


This coming invasion of bandwidth-hungry devices is what fuels the demand for quick worldwide deployment of 5G networks.


  1. the oceans, and in turns fish and the stomachs of other animals eating them (yes, including us) are filled with plastic. Seahorses and other fish are already swimming in them
  2. The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into effect on May 25th 2018 say that web users must explicitly consent to receive tracking software
  3. As a temporary measure to cope with GDPR, USA Today decided to run a separate, “light” version of their website for EU users, without tracking scripts and ads
  4. Web developer Marcel Freinbichler found out (see picture below) that:
  • bandwidth-wise, the “light”, but still fully functional version of the USA Today website weights about ten times less than the tracking/ads plagued one
  • browsing the “light” version was even faster than browsing the standard one with ad blockers enabled
Do we really need 5G mobile networks? Ask GDPR and seahorses /img/
<a href="" target="_blank">How fast the internet could be without all the junk!</a>


Iot + 5G + GDPR + oceans: Executive Summary

The rush to faster mobile networks is driven, in a surely non-negligible part, by two not-so-necessary needs that are also pretty bad for our health:

Do we really need 5G mobile networks? Ask GDPR and seahorses /img/plastic-waste-from-national-geographic.jpg
<a href="" target="_blank">IoT = place aside these piles of throwaway plastics even bigger piles of throwaway electronics (image source: National Geographic</a>

  • the “need”, for NO real reason, to build literally billions of devices that, by their sheer number and nature, will be an added pollution problem much, much bigger than what plastic already is today. That is WAY too much
  • the “need” to keep going a World Wide Web that, as the GDPR-induced test by Freinbichler shows, consumes way more bandwidth than it could, just to track everything we do online

Next time someone tells you that the Internet of Things or 5G are “innovation”, ask them how smart that kind of innovation is, and how we could afford it.