Are 5G telecommunications a threat to airline safety?

January 4 (Reuters) – US carriers and airlines have been battling for weeks over the potential impact of 5G wireless services on airplanes, unlike the rollout of next-generation services elsewhere, which has largely taken place without raising new security issues. .

Here’s some background on the dispute, in which Verizon Communications and AT&T agreed to a two-week deadline on Monday -5g-aviation-safety-dispute-2022-01-03 in using the newly acquired wireless spectrum, pulling out of a deadlock that threatened to disrupt flights. The deal promises to avoid most, but not all, of the potential air transport disruption linked to the 5G deployment


The United States auctioned off mid-range 5G bandwidth to mobile companies in early 2021 in the 3.7-3.98 GHz range of spectrum, known as C-Band, for about $ 80 billion.

In recent months, US aviation industry groups have escalated their concerns and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a formal warning in November of the risk of interference with flight equipment.

In the airline industry, radar altimeters, which measure altitude, operate in the 4.2-4.4 GHz range and there is concern that there is not a sufficiently large buffer for them. frequencies for use by telecommunications companies.

Companies have come under pressure from the White House, airlines and aviation unions to delay deployment over concerns about 5G’s potential interference with sensitive aircraft electronics like radio altimeters.


Radio altimeters help minimize the risk of accidents or collisions by giving an accurate reading of proximity to the ground. The readings are also used to aid in automated landings and to help detect dangerous currents called wind shear.


In short, the higher the frequency of the spectrum, the faster the service. So, in order to take full advantage of 5G, operators want to operate at higher frequencies.

Some of the C-band spectrum auctioned in the United States had been used for satellite radio, but the transition to 5G means there will be a lot more traffic.


After years of international discussions, in 2019 the European Union set standards for mid-range 5G frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz range.

They have been auctioned off and put into service in many of the bloc’s 27 member states so far without problems.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which oversees 31 states, said on December 17 that the latest discussion was specific to U.S. airspace. “At this stage, no risk of dangerous interference has been identified in Europe,” he said.

AT&T and Verizon have agreed to adopt exclusion zones around many US airports similar to those used in France for six months.

FAA officials noted that the spectrum used by France (3.6-3.8 GHz) is further from the spectrum (4.2-4.4 GHz) used for radio altimeters than in the United States and that France’s power level for 5G is also much lower than what is allowed in the United States.

But Verizon has said it will not use a spectrum as close as what France has been using for several years.

In South Korea, the 5G mobile communication frequency is the band 3.42-3.7 GHz and there has been no report of interference with radio waves since 5G was released in April 2019.

Currently, 5G mobile communication wireless stations are operating near airports, but no issues have been reported.

CTIA, a U.S. wireless trading group, said in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission that “wireless carriers in nearly 40 countries in Europe and Asia are now using C-band for 5G, without any effect reported on radio altimeters operating in the same internationally designated 4.2-4.4 GHz band. “

He added, “Every day, American planes, carrying thousands of American citizens, land in these countries without incident and without expression of concern from the FAA or foreign aviation regulators. That’s the dog. classic that didn’t bark.The laws of physics are no different in the United States than in Europe or Asia.

But airlines had warned that without a deal, security measures could disrupt up to 4% of daily flights. An airline group said the problem had the potential “to divert or cancel thousands of flights every day, thereby disrupting millions of passenger bookings, causing substantial disruption.”

United Airlines chief executive Scott Kirby said last month that if the interference issue was not resolved, it would mean at major US airports, in bad weather, cloud cover or even heavy smog , “you could basically only do visual approaches.” (Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam, Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm, Joyce Lee in Seoul, Tim Hepher in Paris; editing by Grant McCool)

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