Weathering the Storm of Spectrum Interference

With the 2019 hurricane season right around the corner, the need for accurate and timely weather readings is a top priority. These readings are critical to ensuring that our communities are prepared for and protected from any upcoming storms.

Weather readings are typically taken for granted by most Americans. Every day millions of people wake up with the same question: “What’s the weather going to be like today?” They check their phones, televisions, or computers and prepare for the day. While the end result is easy for a person to see, the process is complex and only made possible by weather equipment operating on interference free radiofrequency spectrum communications.

Unfortunately, today’s spectrum reality could directly impact the future of accurate weather readings.

Spectrum is a finite resource, and as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) looks to free up spectrum for emerging technologies like 5G, the risk of interference with existing users, like weather equipment, rises. Without proper testing in both incumbent and adjacent spectrum bands, technologies like 5G could rain on accurate weather readings’ parade.

Elected officials and members of the Administration have raised their concerns about auctioning off spectrum to new players like 5G. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Representatives Mike Quigley, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Frank Lucas, Pete Visclosky, and Jose Serrano have all called on the FCC to take action on spectrum allocation.

More recently, Senators Maria Cantwell and Ron Wyden called on the Federal Communications Commission to further test for so called “out of band emissions” before allowing any new operators onto the spectrum band.

While the aerospace and defense industry is excited about the promise of 5G, it’s critical that the proper testing takes place prior to any FCC auction of previously allocated spectrum. This would allow for spectrum band sharing to take place where appropriate and allow for existing services to continue without harm if the risk of interreference is too great.

Since 2000, the Atlantic region has faced 62 major hurricanes. In the last three years, 12 hurricanes alone have cause billions of dollars in damages that communities are still recovering from. While nothing could prevent any damage from occurring, accurate weather forecasts have been essential to ensure that communities are prepared and the damage limited. Imagine the consequences of interfering with this weather system. That’s the danger we face – the risk we avoid merely by allocating spectrum in cautious and safe manner.