For example, if it rains or there is smog in the air can this atmospheric change affect the signal quality of mobile phone devices such as 4G and 5G?

I have been noticing changes in the reception here in Australia when it is cloudy and when it is smoggy also.

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    \$\begingroup\$ 4G and 5G signals don't reach the clouds. \$\endgroup\$ – Jasen Jan 18 at 7:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jasen, but cloud can reach the ground (fog) or be very low. \$\endgroup\$ – Transistor Jan 18 at 7:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VillageTech be careful with the term "bandwidth" in the context of wireless communication channels, please. You mean "achievable data rate", bandwidth here would be the frequency span of a useful channel, and that is actually not negatively affected by snow or rain. \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Müller Jan 18 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure, my mistake, I thinked 'band', but wrote 'bandwidth' - fixing this. \$\endgroup\$ – VillageTech Jan 18 at 15:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fog, rain, snow - all afect 4G/5G bands. \$\endgroup\$ – VillageTech Jan 18 at 15:30

Yes, microwave propagation, like any other electromagnetic wave, is affected by medium properties – especially moisture/water content.

As a tendency, the higher you go in frequency, the more you notice the atmospheric absorption, but: there's specific frequencies that water absorbs especially well - these happen to be ~2.45 GHz and ~60 GHz: exactly the frequencies of Wifi. That has a causal relationship: These frequencies are less reliably useful due to exactly this absorption, so regulators agreed to having them usable by unlicensed transmitters (wifi, bluetooth, doorbells...). Microwave ovens work at 2.45 GHz – exactly because water absorbs energy at that frequency so well.

Now, you're asking about 4G and 5G: these use frequencies that were deliberately chosen not to be too strongly absorbed by atmosphere – after all, network operators pay billions for their licenses! So, yes, these effects do exist – and when you happen to end up in a dense snowstorm, you'll see how gravely.


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