Technology, and especially cellular services, have always been expected to make life easier. But with a new cellular network on the horizon, that might not actually be the case. The U.S. will be getting the new 5G network soon, and in at least one area, it may be a classic case of “one step forward, two steps back.” Specifically, some experts believe that the new network is drastically going to decrease how accurate weather forecasting will be after it goes public.
In the 1980s, weather forecasting was an estimated 30% less accurate than it is today, and many meteorologists fear that the new 5G network will have forecasts reverting back to those days of shooting from the proverbial hip.
But the big question on everyone’s mind is something so seemingly unrelated as a cellular network could possibly have such an effect on weather forecasting.
In a nutshell, it’s because both the phones that will be running on the network and the tools used for forecasting (as well as any other device that operates wirelessly) all compete for space on the wireless spectrum. As it turns out, that particular radio frequency only has so much free space to offer. The FCC regulates much of the frequency and in March they opened up some of the 24-gigahertz band of the spectrum to wireless providers. That particular swathe of the spectrum is very close to the band that’s used by weather forecasters, who operate at 23.8 GHz.
What’s more, meteorologists can’t simply move to another frequency. Moisture in the air gives off a faint radio frequency at 23.8 gigahertz, and that’s what they use to forecast severe weather occurrences—specifically hurricanes. Now, anyone using a phone on the 5G network could be drowning out that signal.
So, what’s all of this really mean for citizens? Simply put, it means that we may not have as much warning when it comes to severe weather incidents.
It also would seem that the FCC isn’t finished auctioning off the airwaves. There are talks that the FCC might be opening up space around the 36 and 37 GHz frequency. As it turns out, these two ranges are what forecasters use to predict rain and snow.
A wireless network certainly makes our lives easier, but you have to wonder what price we’re really willing to pay for the convenience.