How 5G could seriously mess up weather signals

The new 5G network is officially here in the UK and after a lot of hype, it brings with it the promise of a better, more instant connection along with much, much faster download speeds.

This all sounds like a great thing for a network to have. Especially considering how far mobiles have come since the days of playing Snake on an old Nokia handset.

But, with telephone internet having advanced tenfold since the first internet phone was released in 1996, at what cost does a super-fast internet connection like 5G come at?

5G and the weather

It seems that the impact this new network might be having is on the weather.

Meteorologists in the US have warned that signals from the new 5G have the potential to disrupt radio signals that come from weather satellites. Something which they say is “deeply concerning”.

This is not the first time we have been warned about this. Back in May, scientists also cautioned that 5G had the capability of disrupting weather station readings. Which could be dire if they are unable to predict when extremes weathers will occur.

In May, Tony McNally from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading said: “The way 5G is being introduced could seriously compromise our ability to forecast major storms… In the end it could make the difference between life and death. We are very concerned about this.”

A letter to the FCC

However, despite the warnings, phone companies have continued to roll out their plans to release the 5G network, which has brought forth further concerns from meteorologists. In their latest counsel, a collection of scientists has written to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with their worries.

The letter was picked up by news site, The Register, and within it, experts reiterate their worries over the interference to the weather signals. Part of one letter reads: “[We] have previously expressed concern with the proposal… because of the likelihood of interference with the reception of weather satellite imagery and relayed environmental data to receive-only antennas that members of America’s weather, water, and climate enterprise use”.

In another letter, it was pointed out the impact that messing with weather signals can have. Jonathan Porter, AccuWeather executive, wrote in a separate letter to the FCC: “The loss of seconds can mean the difference between safety and grave risk to life and property”.

How do the weather signals work?

The way that the weather is predicted using satellites is through specific variables in the atmosphere being studied. Variables include water vapour, rain, snow and ice content. Then, sensors work at specific frequencies that send signals back down to earth which enables scientists to predict the weather. Using this information can show meteorologists when extreme weathers are developing.

5G will emit frequencies that are very similar to the ones used in reading weather and variables. This makes it hard for scientists to tell the difference in data and know what is happening, potentially resulting in dangerous weather warnings being missed.

5G’s defence

Ligado Networks, an American satellite communications company, have fought back on the use of 5G and wants to increase the bandwidth they can use. In their own letter to FCC, they say that blocking the band of 5G would “lead to the inefficient allocation of this prime, lower mid-band spectrum – something the US can ill afford as it attempts to win the race to 5G”.

They further suggest that the internet could be used to predict the weather instead. Something which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have noted will be too slow in responding to the weather.

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