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May 31, 2019

The 24 GHz Auction is Over. It’s Time to Move Forward .

The 24 GHz Auction is Over. It’s Time to Move Forward


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Nick Ludlum
Senior Vice President & Chief Communications Officer

The 24 GHz auction is over. We’re one step closer to winning the global 5G race.

And now that the auction is over, it’s time to move past the surprising debate about interference rules.

Meteorologists and environmental scientists are right to want to make sure we have the very best weather data we can get. It’s a goal we share.

But, as we pointed out last week, claims that 5G in the 24 GHz band will decrease the accuracy of weather forecasts are simply not true. All available evidence shows that existing interference rules are proven to protect the collection of weather data.

And it’s important that we clarify and move on from this quickly, because these misunderstandings could have unintended consequences that slow our path to 5G and even limit opportunities to enhance weather forecasting.

Digging Deeper on the Science

In response to our post last week, we received some questions about the 24 GHz band and also heard some misunderstandings repeated. Let’s take them one-by-one.

First, it’s clear that some believe that 5G will operate in the same band that passive weather sensors are using to gather weather data. It’s not true. 5G traffic will be hundreds of megahertz away from the band used in weather data collection and well beyond the interference limits set by the FCC.

Second, there is confusion over which passive weather sensor is being used to detect the signals that NOAA is concerned about, and whether that matters. As we pointed out last week, NOAA’s analysis draws from a report of a different sensor than the one actually in use today. And that does in fact matter, because, like all scientific instruments, higher quality sensors result in more accurate readings. The sensor currently in use is far more accurate, and far less susceptible to interference, than the one on which the study is based.

Third, there is an assumption that dire warnings about 5G interfering with weather collection are based on evidence. In fact, there is no evidence that 5G will interfere with the ability of existing passive weather sensors to collect data accurately. All available evidence supports keeping existing interference rules as they are. There is already traffic in neighboring bands and the FCC’s interference rules are proven to maintain the integrity and accuracy of weather readings. The interference rules work right now, and no one has explained why those existing services can so easily co-exist with the weather forecasting sensors.

Understanding the 5G Impact

These clarifications should hopefully put the fear of losing massive amounts of weather data to rest. But there’s a fourth misunderstanding we need to address as well: the belief that, despite the lack of any credible evidence, we might as well change the rules because it won’t cause any harm.

Nothing could be further from the truth. 5G networks need a mix of high-, mid- and low-band spectrum.   Over 5 years of hard work, the FCC has identified 4950 MHz of high-band spectrum for commercial use, including the 24 GHz band.  That puts us ahead right now, and neck-and-neck with where China is headed— 6,000 MHz by 2021.

Changing the rules now would dramatically reduce the amount of high-band spectrum available for robust 5G services, leaving us with potentially less than half the amount that China is freeing up.  If we follow the Department of Commerce’s lead, we would turn a national advantage in high-band spectrum into a liability.

And that would come at a steep cost. Studies show that wireless leadership is a pillar of our economy and that 5G leadership will create jobs, further grow our economy and help America lead the industries of the future.

5G Can Help Enhance Weather Collection

Of course, talking about millions of new jobs or billions in economic growth can feel pretty abstract. But 5G will transform the way we live and work and have a tangible impact across industries including, as it turns out, weather forecasting and climate science.

This isn’t theoretical. NOAA itself recognizes the power that lots of distributed weather sensors over wireless networks could have. They’re already using mobile phones on 4G networks to crowdsource weather reports and gather data that “weather radars cannot see.”

But where today’s 4G networks connect everyone, 5G connects everything. It will dramatically enhance the collection of weather and environmental data. Think sensors on buildings, telephone poles, roads, bridges, cars and more. 5G will introduce a whole new class of sensors and instruments that will increase the volume and type of data available to meteorologists, climate scientists and others on an unprecedented scale. That means more accurate forecasts and more real-time weather information to help people avoid catastrophic weather events such as fires, earthquakes, hurricanes and more.

Its Time to Turn The Page

NASA and NOAA want accurate weather reports, and we do too.  We shouldn’t be acting out of unsubstantiated, unproven fear.

That’s not how government works. It’s not how science works.

We should be guided by the evidence, and the evidence is clear. Passive weather data collection is not at risk from 5G. It never was.

The 24 GHz auction is over. This controversy should end with it.  Let’s start building our 5G future now.

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