Science journal Nature is reporting that accurate weather forecasting may be an unintentional casualty of 5G deployment.
At the heart of the issue is the frequencies that have been approved for use in 5G networks, specifically frequencies around 23.8 GHz. Evidently, “water vapour in the atmosphere naturally produces a weak signal at this frequency, which satellites use to measure humidity. Those data feed into weather forecasts. But if a 5G station is transmitting a signal near the 23.8-gigahertz frequency, a weather satellite might pick it up and interpret it as water vapour. And that bad data could degrade forecasts.
“Meteorologists say that the problem is manageable, but only if there is enough of a noise buffer between the 5G transmissions and water-vapour signal. The buffer is measured in units of decibel watts, and is akin to a measure of how much you might turn down your stereo volume so as not to bother your neighbours.”
Currently, there is debate about how much buffer is required. Understandably, the World Meteorological Organization is calling for the largest buffer at -55 decibel watts. On the other end of the spectrum, the United States is calling for just -20 decibel watts. The European Union is in the middle, having settled on a buffer of -42 decibel watts, 150 times less noise than the U.S. is allowing.
The agreement reached by the various entities stipulates a -33 decibel watt buffer till September 1, 2027. After that, it increases to -39 decibel watts. The goal with the two-stage regulation is to give companies time and opportunity to roll out 5G without burdening them unnecessarily. Once 5G is established and more widespread, then regulation will become stricter to make sure the denser 5G transmissions don’t cause more interference.
Some experts are not convinced that will be enough, however.
“The race for 5G is going to go fast,” says Renee Leduc, Founder and Principal of Narayan Strategy in Washington DC. “In the early to mid-2020s we’re going to see a very quick uptick.” Despite the stricter regulations in 2027, Leduc says: “I’m still really concerned about the time period between now and then.”
Nature says increased cooperation between meteorologists and the wireless industry may be necessary. Turning off or redirecting 5G transmissions while a satellite is taking measurements may be a compromise solution.
Whatever the case, whatever solutions and regulations are put in place, only time will tell how much 5G interferes with accurate weather forecasting.