Mobile Devices

Meteorologists: 5G could interfere with weather forecasts

02 May 2019
The spectrum satellites use to find water vapor in clouds may get interfered with by 5G signals. Source: Pixabay

As the U.S. government continues to auction wireless frequencies for future 5G deployments, meteorologists are concerned that some of these frequencies lie too close to those used by satellites to gather weather forecasts and could interfere with data collection.

Specifically, 5G signals from equipment and smartphones may reduce the effectiveness of detecting concentrations of water vapor in the atmosphere, according to a report from the journal Nature. This data is factored into models that meteorologists use to predict weather forecasts worldwide.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently in talks with both the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA regarding what types of frequencies need to be protected to not interfere with weather data, but the first segment of auctioned 5G spectrum raised concern.

The spectrum most concerning is in the 23.8 gigahertz (GHz) frequency, where water vapor emits a faint signal in the atmosphere. 5G frequencies are close to this range, as the FCC auctions off frequencies between 24.25 GHz and 24.45 GHz as well as 24.85 GHz and 25.25 GHz. Equipment at the lower end of this range could be close enough to cause noise in frequencies around it, leading to problems with weather measurement.

The next generation of cellular communication has gone live in select cities in just a few countries. The first 5G rollouts in the U.S. came via Verizon, which launched the service in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis, with plans to deploy networks in 30 more cities in 2019. AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile also plan to deploy 5G services to multiple cities, which means more equipment and more frequencies in use.

There are no signs of 5G deployments slowing down, and carriers and smartphone vendors are excited to push through new technology that the public will want in the long term. Add to this a federal government initiative to support 5G rollout as a matter of national security.

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