As technology improves, so do the complications they bring to the table. At the moment, meteorologists are concerned with the upcoming 5G mobile networks that many companies are planning to roll out as soon as they’re able. According to them, it is a very real possibility that 5G networks could interfere with the fine-tuned systems and signals of the weather satellites that meteorologists use to predict major storms.
Supposedly, the 5G networks will impair forecast accuracy, resulting in poorer warnings regarding storms and potentially the loss of life. This all sounds very bad, but without explanation doesn’t hold much merit. How exactly would 5G networks negatively impact weather satellites around the world?
Apparently, the issue is with the radio frequency that 5G networks will use. This frequency will interfere with and possibly contaminate data and observations made by Earth’s weather satellites. Our weather satellites gaze down at our atmosphere and observe important variables like cloud cover, rain, water vapor, and ice in order to make estimates on what kind of weather might strike certain areas. Some frequencies, such as 23.8 GHz, are used to do this. The aforementioned frequency is faintly emitted by water vapor, which is observed and measures by our satellites.
Several other frequencies are needed by weather satellites to make accurate observations as well, including the 36-37 GHz band for rain and snow, the 50 GHz band for atmospheric pressure, and the 86-92 GHz band for clouds and ice. 5G networks could potentially use frequencies very close to these critical bands, making it impossible for satellites to tell if the frequencies they are picking up are weather or 5G networks. That data would then be useless.
The issue is so very real that governments are already placing regulations and restrictions to prevent the problem. The US Federal Communications Commission is already auctioning off frequencies near the previously mentioned frequencies to 5G providers in order to prevent them from interfering with those frequencies. Many other countries are following suit, but that doesn’t mean all of them are. And of course, companies probably aren’t happy with having potential avenues of financial gain closed off to them.
Whether or not the impact of 5G frequencies on weather forecasting has been made clear enough to prevent it remains to be seen. Some countries may not bother to regulate themselves well enough to prevent these frequencies from being used, and companies are always looking for frequencies they can exploit in order to make a buck. This is old news as far as capitalism and greed goes, but unlike many other issues, this one has global ramifications to consider. The ability to monitor developing weather in other countries is critical to predicting whether or not that weather will affect us as well.
Ultimately, a global conference is being held in Egypt to discuss the issue this year. Hopefully, said conference will established some clear ground rules and guidelines that will protect the frequencies meteorologists need to in turn protect us.