5G Belgium — Chaos Across the Spectrum

“The interferences caused to GSM-R receivers have been
a very strong concern for Railway operators over the last
years. Several cases of interference have been reported in
various Member States, causing non-acceptable operational
and even safety issues.”

EU Agency for Railways

May 31 2019 — Belgium’s telecoms regulator, the Belgian Institute for Post and Telecommunications (BIPT), has begun a public consultation to assess interest in using the 26GHz band for 5G services. Amazingly, the document does not say one word about possible interferences with — for instance — very important weather satellites. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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In a recent post, I told you that the Dutch Intel Agencies have come to the conclusion that their espionage station will need to be shut down because of interferences with the new 5G network. Well, that is for the spies to worry about? Sure, but today’s story is about all of us. Read carefully.

The Belgian 5G Dossier is surreal. I recently summarized the current situation:

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No one knows when the next government, whenever it is formed, will allow the auction of the 5G frequency bands. And no one knows if the auction will allow three or four operators.

No one knows whether the next government will allow or not Chinese equipment to be used in the development of the 5G infrastructure.

If allowed, what will be the retaliation by the US administration against Belgium? If not allowed, how will the Belgian telecom operators develop their 5G infrastructure which they had planned to build around Huawei and ZTE equipment.

And no one knows what maximum power operators will be allowed to use in Brussels because the project to modify the Law has been postponed.

This summary is about — mostly — the old frequency bands. But, earlier this month, Belgium’s telecoms regulator — the Belgian Institute for Post and Telecommunications (BIPT) — has begun a public consultation to assess interest in using the 26GHz band for 5G services.

Interested parties have until today (May 31 2019) to offer views on using the 26GHz band, proposals for migrating its current users and a future regulatory framework for the spectrum.

The BIPT believes it possible to assign six blocks of 200MHz without migrating the band’s existing users, while a further ten blocks would be available once the spectrum is vacated.

European Union member states are required to authorise the use of at least 1GHz of the 26GHz band by 31 December 2020 in order to facilitate the rollout of 5G, subject to demand and the absence of significant issues migrating existing users.

The 26GHz band is currently home to 850 two-way radio links, with blocks awarded to Telenet and Orange Belgium. (Not long ago, I documented the failure of these links during a storm.)

All over the world, scientists are worried that 5G wireless networks could interfere with technology that uses satellites to make accurate weather forecasts.

What Are Interferences?

All the radio devices are susceptible to produce and to suffer from interferences, and it is not possible to guarantee an interference free radio environment.

There can be many different signals with different power levels measured in a specific frequency range of the radio spectrum.

The receiver terminals have their own sensitivity and capabilities to “listen” to the desired signal. When the discrimination of the desired signal is not possible, we speak of interferences.

A NASA report provides an investigation into the history of some well-known Electromagnetic interference (EMI) system failures and anomalies in military and commercial electronic systems. Here are two textbook examples.

During the early years of ABS’s, Mercedes-Benz automobiles equipped with ABS had severe braking problems along a certain stretch of the German autobahn. The brakes where affected by a near-by radio transmitter as drivers applied them on the curved section of highway. The near-term solution was to erect a mesh screen along the roadway to attenuate the EMI. This enabled the brakes to function properly when drivers applied them.

An F-16 fighter jet crashed in the vicinity of a Voice of America (VOA) radio transmitter because its fly-by-wire flight control system was susceptible to the HIRF transmitted. Since the F-16 is inherently unstable, the pilot must rely on the flight computer to fly the aircraft. Subsequently, many of the F-16’s were modified to prevent this type EMI, caused by inadequate military specifications on that particular electronics system. This F-16 case history was one of the drivers for institution by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the HIRF [High-Intensity Radiated Field] certification program.

Interferences Already Plague the Belgian Spectrum

The interferences caused to GSM-R receivers have been a very strong concern for Railway operators over the last 10 years. Several cases of interference have been reported in, causing non-acceptable operational and even safety issues.

Measurement campaigns performed during 2013-2014 concluded that current GSM-R receivers are affected by intermodulation products generated from wideband
or narrowband signals from mobile network operators, even though both railway and public operators use their assigned radio spectrum in compliance with the relevant
European and national regulations.

For obvious reasons, I will not provide additional details but you can easily imagine what the “bad guys” could do if they understand this issue. And it is not very hard to figure it out.

Of course, the Belgian population is totally unaware of this very grave safety issue because the media never covered this scandal. Surely, you would like to know who is responsible for the erroneous design of the GSM-R filter and/or the inadequate legal text?

And guess what? This issue is just the tip of the iceberg! In Brussels, pilots have complained for years that they have great difficulty to understand the orders given by the airport controllers because the communication is very noisy due to an excessive amount of interferences.

Bruxelles Environnement — the administration responsible for the measurement of RF signals — has not detected a single illegal RF signal over the last ten years. During WWII, radio operators in city such Brussels or Paris knew that they had 40 minutes maximum to transmit a message before a truck of the Gestapo was parked in front of their building.

The airport authorities have simply given up on the hope that this administration would actually do the work.

According to a well-informed source, the airport has acquired a dozen of R&S spectrum analysers equipped with a directional antenna. They will conduct their own search of illegal sources of microwave signals in the area, restricted of course to the frequencies that matter to them…

Brussels is a spooks’ paradise!

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5G networks could interfere with weather forecasts

In the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration remains at an impasse with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over how to protect weather satellite observations from interference by 5G telecommunications equipment.

At a hearing by the House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment on 16 May, acting NOAA administrator Neil Jacobs warned that US weather forecasting capabilities could be severely degraded if the FCC proceeds with its plans for green-lighting transmissions within a 24 GHz spectrum band that it recently auctioned to telecommunications companies. He said NOAA and NASA have concluded that the out-of-band emissions limits set by the FCC are insufficient to prevent interference with weather satellites’ ability to detect water vapor. He reported that the FCC has taken issue with the input parameters NOAA and NASA used when modeling the interference effects.

Meanwhile, the FCC is facing pressure from Congress to address the concerns raised by NOAA, NASA, and other parts of the scientific community. Leaders of several committees have urged the FCC to reconsider its approach to opening up the 24 GHz band, which includes frequencies as low as 24.25 GHz. Weather satellites detect 23.8 GHz emissions from water vapor in the atmosphere. [Physics Today]

REFERENCES

Belgium opens consultation on use of 26GHz band for 5G — Telegeography.com

GSM-R and Interferences: Managing the co-existence — EU Agency for Railways

Interferences into GSM-R due to public mobile radio networks — EUROPA

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5G Belgium — Chaos Across the Spectrum

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