|New 5G antennas (left) are smaller than 4G ones (right). Upcoming 5G networks will use higher-frequency radio spectrum, which will provide more bandwidth and enable the faster data-transfer rates that new technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, smart energy grids, and internet-of-things devices, will demand. (Photos by KPhrom/Shutterstock.com.)|
Topics: Electromagnetic Radiation, Mathematics, Stochastic Modeling, Research, Satellite, Weather
The fight is on over 5G. Telecommunication companies and the US government promote the latest mobile broadband because it will provide faster data-transfer rates than the current broadband communication standard. Faster, more reliable digital communication is needed for the newest technologies—autonomous vehicles, internet-of-things devices, and smart energy grids, among others. But meteorologists, US science agencies, and other countries worry that strong 5G signals, if not properly regulated, may interfere with satellites that are crucial to weather forecasting.
Today’s 4G network, nearly a decade old, moves data by bouncing radio waves between cell towers and devices such as smartphones. A 5G network would operate similarly but use a wider frequency range and more bandwidth, which would increase data-transfer rates by an order of magnitude. The higher-frequency signals proposed for 5G can’t travel through buildings like their lower-frequency 4G counterparts, but specialized antenna arrays would transmit the 5G signal across long distances. Earlier this year, two telecom companies in South Korea launched small 5G networks using busy lower-frequency bands, and Verizon deployed a 5G test in Chicago at the higher-frequency 28 GHz band.
Widespread 5G deployment will depend on building a new infrastructure of antennas that operate in high-frequency radio bands. Telecom companies and US regulators support 24 GHz for 5G networks because of its greater bandwidth and because the 1–6 GHz radio spectrum is already crowded with 4G, digital TV, radar, and other applications. (The 24 GHz band spans 24.25–24.45 GHz and 24.75–25.25 GHz.)
Fifth-generation broadband wireless threatens weather forecasting
Alex Lopatka, Physics Today