Could 5G deployment impact weather reporting?

I am several degrees shy of my meteorologist degree. (OK – all credits shy.) But I found this fascinating. Evaluation Engineering reports that 5G may hinder the 10-day forecast…

The current adage in meteorology is that today’s 10-day weather forecast is as accurate as the seven-day used to be, which is as accurate as the five-day used to be in the 1990s, which is accurate as the three-day used to be in the 1980s. Those crucial extra forecast days gained over the years has allowed local governments to issue evacuations at least several days before hurricanes impact an area, and gives local services time to prepare for damaging impacts and the aftermath following the storm.

But according to many people involved with this forecasting, the onset of 5G technology could ruin that decades-long progress. This past May, the acting chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Neil Jacobs, testified on Capitol Hill that the interference from 5G wireless technology could reduce the accuracy of weather forecasting by as much as 30%. Jacobs told the House Subcommittee on the Environment that such a setback would result in coastal residence having at least two or three less days to prepare for a hurricane and could lead to less accurate predictions on the path of hurricanes and where they will make landfall, endangering lives by doing so. Jacobs said that’d set hurricane forecasts back to where they were in 1980.

Here’s the reason…

In a nutshell, the issue with 5G and weather forecasting comes from 5G’s use of spectrum in the 24 GHz frequency band, which is nearly that the 23.8 GHz spectrum band that NOAA uses to gather data for weather prediction. Some of the frequencies the Federal Communications Commission plans to use for 5G are located next to the only frequency where weather satellites can detect water vapor—a crucial component for weather forecasting, especially for hurricanes. …

Water vapor emits a faint 23.8 GHz signal in the earth’s atmosphere, which satellites monitor to collect data that is then fed into weather prediction models. That gives meteorologists no flexibility to use a different frequency.

“We can’t move away from 23.8 or we would,” Jordan Gerth, a research meteorologist at the Universifty of Wisconsin-Madison told WIRED in May. “As far as 5G is concerned, the administration has a priority to put 5G on the spectrum, and they thought this was an OK place to do it. It’s just close to where we are sensing the weather.”

Gerth and Jacobs said that reducing the power emitted by 5G wireless radios could help prevent some of spectrum-water vapor interference. NOAA and NASA want to limit interference noise to closer to that considered acceptable by the European Union and World Meteorological Organization. At its current FCC proposal, Jacobs said 5G interference would result in a 77% loss in data from NOAA satellite sensors.

It is interesting to me that the FCC is not in line with European Union and World Meteorological Organization standards. I would have thought there’s be more alignment with something like this. It sounds like more issues may come up – some will likely have a greater impact on Minnesota weather watchers…

But even if a compromise is met between the meteorological community and the FCC over the 23.8 GHz frequency used to track water vapor, it won’t be the last clash between those two sides. Down the road, the FCC plans to action off 5G radio frequency bands close to that used to detect rain and snow (36-37 GHz), atmospheric temperature (50.2-50.4 GHz), and clouds and ice (80-90 GHz). So, expect to hear similar news about these issues going forward.

Fast-Tracking the T-Mobile and Sprint Merger Undermines Public Interest

A press release from Next Century Cities

Fast-Tracking the T-Mobile and Sprint Merger Undermines Public Interest
Washington DC (August 14, 2019) — Today, Federal Communications Commission leadership recommended the approval of the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, a move that would further consolidate the wireless market and eventually raise prices for consumers.
T-Mobile and Sprint are two maverick companies that have competed head-to-head to offer innovative low-cost products to consumers and create a vital resale market. Combining the two would likely raise prices across the market, and would be particularly harmful for low-income consumers who rely on mobile service as their sole connection to the internet.
Both companies have told the FCC and Congress that the merger is necessary in order to build out next-generation wireless networks, yet have simultaneously touted independent 5G deployments to the public. It remains true that ultimately, competitive pressure — not consolidation — is what will drive network upgrades.
“The FCC’s charge is to protect the interest of the public, not of private companies,” said Cat Blake, Senior Program Manager. “This deal is good for T-Mobile and Sprint, but will ultimately make it harder for Americans to access affordable, high-quality essential mobile services. Further, it is unacceptable that the FCC would move to approve a deal without first soliciting public comment on the significant divestiture package required by the Department of Justice.
The public has a right to weigh-in on whether restructuring the deal with DISH would provide adequate consumer choice in the wireless market.”
A merger between T-Mobile and Sprint would be against the public interest. The FCC should follow the 16 state attorneys general in blocking the deal.

Minnesota is one of those states striving to block the deal.

Case Study on WISPS (Midco) also serves as a broadband primer

The Global Cities Challenge (GCTC) program is a collaborative platform for the development of smart cities and communities, led by National Institute of Standards and Technology, a bureau of U.S. Department of Commerce, in partnership with other U.S. federal agencies. It looks like one outcome of the challenge is a paper on WISPs (wireless internet service providers) – mostly on Midco.

I won’t go into the case study too much but there are elements that serve as an easy-to-read primer that would be helpful to anyone new-ish to the broadband world or anyone who need to help someone better understand the impact or broadband. Fr example, the new report gives a quick snapshot on the different broadband options…

Broadband connectivity can be provided by a variety of technologies. Each platform can offer unique attributes to meet specific needs. Wired networks boast security and resilience; fiber optics are often referred to as “future proof,” referring to the ability to increase capacity by adding electronic components at the physical ends of the fiber. Fixed wireless networks (described more fully in the Midco case study below) allow fiber providers to “edge out” their fiber connectivity by deploying fixed wireless equipment on local grain elevators, water towers, commercial towers, tall buildings, etc. and then backhauling that traffic to the fiber network. At the same time, mobile wireless technologies are necessary to support critical applications “on the move.” Mobile and fixed broadband services work in concert to provide comprehensive access to critical applications that support rural economic development, education and health care. As noted by the FCC, fixed and mobile broadband services, while not full substitutes for each other, are each “important services that provide different functionalities, tailored to serve different consumer needs.”4 The FCC has concluded that consumers require access to both wired and mobile services.5 However, even where a predominantly wireless solution may be a preferred solution due to terrain or other factors, wireless networks at their core require a wired infrastructure to convey traffic.6 Properly drafted policies can account for the need for both wired and wireless technologies, and can provide much-needed connectivity to rural America.

It then goes into detail on the impact on various aspects of life – healthcare, work , economic development and more. And of course you can learn a lot more about fixed wireless in the report. BUT sometimes I think these quick intros that provider very high level descriptions can be super useful.

Verizon upgrades parts of St Paul to 5G

Good news for parts of St Paul, the St Paul Pioneer Press reports that 5G is coming to parts of St Paul…

The carrier is in frenzied competition with AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, which are all deploying versions of 5G but are not yet offering such service in the Twin Cities.

Verizon’s 5G speeds can, at times, seem jaw-dropping. Downloads in downtown St. Paul will often reach or surpass 2 gigabits per second, which is notable since a residential-broadband hookup typically doesn’t exceed 1 gigabit.

But 5G is not ubiquitous..

At the moment it’s available only in a small portion of St. Paul, including about a third of downtown and a few nearby areas. Verizon is being coy about precisely where 5G will work, except to say it is operational “in parts of Downtown, Lowertown and West Seventh neighborhoods around such landmarks as the Minnesota Children’s Museum, the Minnesota Museum of American Art, the Fitzgerald Theater, Cathedral Hill Park and the Alexander Ramsey House.”

Verizon said its 5G footprints in Minneapolis and St. Paul will expand over time, but didn’t provide a timetable.

“We want to make sure to let people know that coverage is expanding, but it’s not a light switch where everyone (in a city) has it,” spokesman Andy Choi said.

It’s a sign of how long the tour will be before 5G gets to rural areas in Minnesota.

“It could be up to five years before customers in smaller cities like Fargo and Bismarck can expect to see 5G”

The Grand Forks Herald looks at wireless broadband in rural areas, recognizing that it may be five years before smaller cities like Bismark will get 5G. If we’re looking at five years for Bismark, it will likely be longer for the area two miles outside Bismark…

The telecommunications world is racing to deploy the next generation of wireless technology, called 5G, shorthand for fifth generation. The service is now available in some major cities, including Minneapolis.

The next-generation mobile network will provide dazzlingly fast internet access — with speeds of 300 mps or higher.

But experts say it could be up to five years before customers in smaller cities like Fargo and Bismarck can expect to see 5G wireless, and it likely will be available only in densely populated areas, such as the downtowns, the campus of North Dakota State University or state capitol complex.

That’s because 5G uses very high-frequency radio waves that travel very short distances, requiring a dense — and very expensive — network of transmitters that are cost-effective only in very urban environments.

T-Mobile has 18% discount for nonprofit orgs to serve their clients

I just heard that T-Mobile has opened up its contracts with states and the federal GSA to nonprofits. This means you have access to an 18% discount on service. If you pay T-Mobile directly you can use this discount to provide service to the folks you serve. They do not have a system for the folks you serve to pay T-Mobile directly.

This could be a way to offer hotspots to library patrons or to families you serve that don’t have access at home. (Get pricing. And check coverage areas before you get into any contracts!)

Other providers may have similar service – and if they do I’d be happy to post it here too. (Just send me info or post a comment below.)

Rural and Urban Broadband are different and 5G isn’t a panacea for both

Doug Dawson take on the most popular question of the last few years (again!) – will 5G bring ubiquitous broadband to rural areas. And the answer again is – no. I’m a little tempted to just leave my comments as that and link readers directly to Doug – but I’ll try to pull out some very high level points…

There are a few hot-button topics that are the current favorite talking points at the FCC. T-Mobile and Sprint are pressing both the 5G and the rural broadband buttons with their merger request. The companies are claiming that if they are allowed to merge that they can cover 96% of America with a ‘deep, broad, and nationwide’ 5G network.

There are multiple technologies being referred to as 5G – wireless broadband loops and 5G cellular – and their claim doesn’t hold water for either application.

Doug goes on to explain the multiple technologies. And if you want/need to know the differences, I think he makes it pretty easy to understand. If you don’t want or need to know – you can skip right to his conclusion…

The T-Mobile and Sprint claim is pure bosh. These companies are not going to be investing in fiber to bring 5G wireless loops to rural America. While a combined company will have more spectrum than the other carriers there is no immediate advantage for using 5G for rural cellular coverage . The T-Mobile and Sprint announcements are just pushing the 5G and the rural broadband hot-buttons because the topics resonate well with politicians who don’t understand the technology.