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U.S. Meteorologists 'Deeply Concerned' Over 5G Roll-Out

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This illustration depicts the Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, spacecraft designed to provide forecasters with crucial environmental science data to provide a better understanding of changes in the Earth's weather, oceans and climate. Ball Aerospace

U.S. weather forecasters are the latest group to sound the alarm that the race to introduce 5G technologies may have adverse consequences.


In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), U.S. meteorologists called the potential for 5G mobile technologies to disrupt communication between weather satellites "deeply concerning," according to the BBC.

The letter was signed by the American Meteorological Society, the National Weather Association and the American Geophysical Union. They oppose a FCC proposal to share a radio spectrum band with mobile companies, arguing that sharing the radio band may lead to a delay in life-saving data, according to Newsweek.

"[Interference will] postpone dissemination of vital information to the public to aid and protect life, property, businesses, and government operations. The loss of seconds can mean the difference between safety and grave risk to life and property," said John Porter, an executive at AccuWeather, in a separate letter to the FCC, as Newsweek reported.

Experts warned that sharing the 1675-1680MHz band could cause delays in public service alerts about severe weather like hurricanes and tornadoes. The letter by the U.S. meteorologists piggy backs on a letter sent to the FCC Chairman by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) asking him not to issue 5G licenses "until the FCC approves the passive band protection limits that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) determine are necessary to protect critical satellite‐based measurements of atmospheric water vapor needed to forecast the weather."

Results of the study are expected in 2020.

Wyden and Cantwell said that the "ongoing sale of wireless airwaves could damage the effectiveness of US weather satellites and harm forecasts and predictions relied on to protect safety, property, and national security."

They reprimanded the FCC for beginning the auction "over the objections of NASA, NOAA, and members of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). These entities all argued that out-of-band emissions from future commercial broadband transmissions in the 24GHz band would disrupt the ability to collect water-vapor data measured in a neighboring frequency band (23.6 to 24GHZ) that meteorologists rely on to forecast the weather," as Ars Technica reported.

The extent of the radio wave interference will depend on where new 5G networks are, said Prof. William Webb, independent consultant and author of the book The 5G Myth, as the BBC reported.

"If it's only deployed in city centers, it probably won't cause interference," Webb said to the BBC. "But if it's used in large volumes near the meteorological sites then yes it could."

Prominent U.S. agencies are not the only ones asking for more time before 5G licenses are issued. The new mobile technologies have also faced resistance in Europe. In April, Brussels banned the implementation of 5G technologies due to concerns over radiation.

"I cannot welcome such technology if the radiation standards, which must protect the citizen, are not respected, 5G or not," said Céline Fremault , Brussels' Environment minister, as the Brussels Times reported. "The people of Brussels are not guinea pigs whose health I can sell at a profit. We cannot leave anything to doubt," she added.

Under the current radiation standards in Brussels, a pilot project is not possible. Fremault said she does not intend to make an exception for faster Internet speed.

However, the GSMA — an organization that represents mobile network operators — believes that 5G services and weather sensing services can co-exist, according to the BBC.

"We cannot allow these scare tactics to prevent us from reaping the huge societal and economic benefits of 5G networks," said Brett Tarnutzer, the trade body's head of spectrum, as the BBC reported. "We urge everyone to simply look at the facts and not get drawn in by misleading rhetoric."

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