“Whether the weather...”

5G communications will move mobile signals to even higher radio frequencies, where the weather may begin to become an important factor. Here we explain the Met Office’s role in this project.

The move to higher radio frequencies will mean that 5G will be able to provide greater bandwidth to the rapidly increasing number of connected devices. However, it may also mean that the elements impact on future network performance. 

“Whether the weather be fine
Or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold
Or whether the weather be hot,
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not.”

— Anon
Along the lines of the old British poem, our future 5G networks must contend with our much-loved British climate. In particular, as the 5G bands move into the even higher gigahertz frequency range, phone signal strengths may be reduced as they pass through heavier patches of rain.

This is likely to be more of an issue in more open urban areas where a greater separation of antennae means that phone signals will have to travel through longer distances through the elements.

The Met Office is making two contributions to the 5G project. Firstly, it’s generating high-resolution realisations of notable real rain events, such as 2016’s Storm Angus, derived from its operational rainfall radar network data. These might be considered as the weather “digital twin”.

Secondly, these rainfall values are also being converted into signal loss parameters for use in the 5G Innovation Centre signal propagation models. This will allow the project to understand to what extent weather will drive the final design of the network.

Dr Dave Jones, Head of Observations R&D at the Met Office, said: “It’s really exciting to be able to bring together the complementary skill sets of all of the project partners to achieve something of such potential valuable to the UK. As a meteorologist, it’s also been great fun looking for cases of the worst kind of weather to throw at our virtual world.”