A long-awaited international deal governing how the world’s technology companies should roll out 5G technology poses serious risks to weather forecast accuracy, according to data from federal agencies and the World Meteorological Organization.
Negotiators from around the world announced a deal Friday at a meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for how to roll out 5G technology that operates using specific radio frequency bands.
Studies completed before the negotiations by US government agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA and the Navy had warned that 5G equipment operating in the 24-gigahertz frequency band could interfere with transmissions from polar-orbiting satellites used to gather weather data.
This could make forecasts much less reliable, the reports found.
Specifically, these highly technical analyses concluded that if deployed widely and without adequate constraints, telecommunications equipment operating in the 24 GHz frequency band would bleed into the frequencies that NOAA and NASA satellite sensors also use to sense the presence and properties of water vapor in the atmosphere, significantly interfering with the collection and transmission of critical weather data.
The NOAA report, for example, warned of a potential loss of 77.4 percent of data coming from microwave sounders mounted on the agency’s polar-orbiting satellites.
The agency’s microwave sounders operate at a frequency of 23.6 to 24 GHz, which is close to the frequency that the Federal Communications Commission auctioned off the use of for about US$2 billion beginning this past March.
The key concerns about 5G interference focus on what are known as baseline interference limits, often referred to as out-of-band emission limits.
Going into the negotiations in Egypt, the United States took a negotiating position that was extremely concerning to scientists at NOAA and NASA, because it called for a limit of up to -20 decibel watts of interference (the lower the limit, the more buffer room there is).
European regulators and the World Meteorological Organization, a UN agency, took a stricter line, arguing for stricter interference limits of up to -55 decibel watts.
The newly agreed standard represents a middle ground and will be introduced in two stages. The first stage, which will be in effect until 1 September, 2027, will be -33 decibel watts, and this will tighten to -39 decibel watts after that.