Weather forecasters insisting on strict limits on the spread of 5G were dealt a blow at the World Radiocommunication Conference in Egypt on November 22.
The vast majority of delegates voted to create a new international standard that would impose much stricter limits on interference from 5G transmitters operating on a specific radio frequency. This is crucial for accurate weather forecasting.
Meteorology experts are concerned that the decision could one day seriously affect their ability to predict severe storms, leaving communities around the world vulnerable to extreme weather events.
The delegates’ decision is the culmination of a years-long battle between scientists and 5G proponents over the 24GHz band. Telecommunications companies have to take higher frequencies, including that band, to achieve higher speeds corresponding to the 5G standard. But by expanding the coverage, they are facing the frequency that scientists use to study the evaporation of water from the surface of the globe. Weather forecasters say there’s little they can do if 5G turns out to be a ‘noisy neighbor’ as the water vapor molecules they track naturally emit a weak radio signal of about 23.8GHz.
According to Chairman of the World Meteorological Organization’s Steering Group on Radio Frequency Coordination Eric Allaix, the conference led both sides to a dead end. Although 5G is still in the works, once it replaces the current generation of mobile broadband, meteorologists will not be able to distinguish the data needed for forecasts from the interference caused by 5G.
The UN’s International Telecommunication Union convenes the World Radiocommunication Conference every three or four years to work out new rules for contested frequencies like 24GHz. To maintain order, the conference tries to establish buffers between groups that use similar frequencies and avoid conflicts. These buffers are called out-of-band emission limits. They are measured in units called decibel watts (dBW) and show the strength of the signal deviation from the specified frequency boundaries.
On November 22, the conference set the 5g technology limit to −33 dBW outside of the 24GHz band. After eight years, the limit will be tightened to −39 dBW.
Studies by NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have shown that the limit should be −52.4 dBW so that 5G does not interfere with satellites collecting weather data. Back in April, Jim Bridenstine of NASA said: «That part of the electromagnetic spectrum is necessary to make predictions as to where a hurricane is going to make landfall. If you can’t make that prediction accurately, then you end up not evacuating the right people and/or you evacuate people that don’t need to evacuate, which is a problem.»