Weather forecast accuracy is at risk from 5G wireless technology, key lawmaker warns FCC, seeking documents — The Washington Post

Screen shot of Dorian Cone of Uncertainty September 4, 2019 4:00 AM EDT via the National Hurricane Center

From The Washington Post (Andrew Freedman):

The issue nears a turning point with an upcoming international meeting

A botched rollout of 5G technology, intended to revolutionize the way we communicate and usher in a new era of innovation, could paradoxically roll back some of these forecasting gains.

In a letter Monday to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, the chairwoman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), expresses concern that we’re headed for such a scenario because of the potential interference of planned urban 5G networks with existing weather satellite sensors. The sensors, mounted aboard polar-orbiting satellites, are used to discern the presence and properties of water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere.

The letter, addressed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, calls for the FCC to provide the scientific evidence it is using to inform the commission’s negotiating position ahead of a key international telecommunications meeting. Johnson is seeking the information by Oct. 7 for the committee to review before the start of that meeting Oct. 28.

“It is imperative that U.S. federal agencies resolve this disagreement about out-of-band emission limits before we begin negotiations with international partners,” the letter states, referring to the limits that describe the amount of noise that 5G devices could be permitted to emit beyond 24 gigahertz.

The letter also, for the first time, releases two reports produced in the past year: one by NASA on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which operates satellites and contains the National Weather Service, and another by NOAA itself.

These highly technical analyses concluded that if deployed widely and without adequate restrictions, telecommunications equipment operating in the 24 GHz frequency band would bleed into the frequencies that NOAA and NASA satellite sensors also use, significantly interfering with the collection and transmission of critical weather data.

The NOAA report, for example, warns of a potential loss of 77.4 percent of data coming from microwave sounders mounted on the agency’s polar-orbiting satellites.

This issue has been percolating in scientific and communications policy circles for months but will come to a head in late October, when nations gather for the World Radiocommunications Conference in Egypt. That is when countries will agree to guidelines governing the use of the 24 GHz band of spectrum, which the FCC auctioned off for about $2 billion beginning this past March.

That auction went forward despite the warnings of NOAA and NASA leadership and the objection of the Commerce Department, NOAA’s parent agency, as well as the concerns of some on Capitol Hill.

Instead, after a breakdown in interagency negotiations, political leaders at the White House sided with the FCC and telecommunications industry in allowing the wireless spectrum auction to proceed, according to multiple people familiar with the process, dismissing the possible implications for weather forecasts.

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