Carriers may be racing to deploy 5G, but it seems accurate weather forecasts may be an unintended casualty.
5G promises to revolutionize a slew of industries, offering speeds that rival or surpasses traditional broadband. Thanks to being wireless, the technology promises to have a profound impact on edge computing, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and more.
Unfortunately, one of the trade-offs may be more accurate weather forecasts, according to Scientific American. The issue revolves around spectrum in the 24 Ghz band, spectrum weather satellites rely on to monitor the natural microwave signals that atmospheric water vapor produces.
“It is one of those things that are a gift of nature,” said William Mahoney III, associate director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “A third of the current forecasting skill comes from this data,” adding the data can “make the difference between a blue sky day and a tornado day.”
Unfortunately, 5G signals in that spectrum range can drown out the water vapor signals.
“If you have a large network of cellphone towers transmitting many orders of magnitude more power near the ground, some of that reflects upward and parts of the atmosphere will become very noisy,” Mahoney said.
The results could be disastrous, severely inhibiting meteorologists ability to accurately forecast the weather, including warning people of severe weather events.
Similarly, the 16 MHz spectrum is used to connect satellites to automated gauges that measure a variety of factors, including wind speeds and water levels in rivers and streams. Here again, there is concern that noise from wireless technology could interfere with those signals.
No one is really sure what happens next. The US, and the entire world, is already heavily invested in deploying 5G. It’s unlikely any kind of moratorium will be put in place, leaving scientists and researchers with the tall task of finding a solution.