18 May 2019
CLIFF MASS — There have been a number of media stories this week about a major threat to weather prediction: the sale of electromagnetic spectrum for new 5G cellphone service. The problem is that some of the wavelengths being auctioned off for 5G are critical for an important class of weather satellites, with 5G signals potentially undermining our ability to forecast the weather.
Currently, 4G cellphone technologies provide roughly 100 megabits per second (100 million bits per second) of communication speed, while the proposed 5G service could achieve 10 gigabits per second (10 billion bits per second). Downloading movies and animations would be much quicker, with hardwired connections becoming less critical for most uses.
But to achieve such service one needs a larger communications highway, which means the use of more of the electromagnetic spectrum. Electromagnetic energy, such as radio, microwaves, and visible light, are characterized by ranges of wavelength and frequency. The use of these wavelengths is controlled by our government, which can auction off specific frequency/wavelength bands. […]