The 5G logo can be seen on the display of an iPhone.
Image Courtesy: Fernando Gutierrez-Juarez

US Airlines Worries about the consequences of installing 5G Network

With at least ten major US airlines warning that the new 5G technology could create huge operational problems and thousands of flight delays, US mobile networks AT&T and Verizon are said to have opted to delay the extension of their 5G service at select airports.

Following two previous delays, the service was set to resume operations in other locations on Wednesday, according to the BBC.
On Tuesday, American Airlines Chief Operating Officer David Seymour told employees that the whole US airline business was facing “significant disruption” due to the implementation of new technologies.

In early 2021, the US government auctioned out mid-range 5G spectrum in the 3.7-3.98 GHz area on the C band spectrum to mobile phone firms for approximately $80 billion.

These frequencies are similar to those used by radio altimeters on airplanes.

Air India canceled eight flights on India-US lines on Wednesday owing to the deployment of 5G internet, which it warned could interfere with aircraft navigation systems.

According to PTI, Arun Kumar, head of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the Indian aviation regulator is working “in close cooperation with our carriers to address the situation.”

What is causing airlines to be concerned, and how serious is the risk?

The RTCA, a US organization that gives technical recommendations on aviation concerns, issued a report in late 2020, prior to the auction of 5G spectrum, warning of the likelihood of “catastrophic failures leading to multiple fatalities in the absence of suitable mitigations.”
Later, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a warning that 5G technology could interfere with devices like altimeters. According to the report, the interference might make it impossible to slow down a jet on landing, causing it to wander off the runway.

The fact that altimeters operate in the 4.2-4.4 GHz region, close to the auctioned frequencies, is cause for alarm.

Altimeters are used to determine how far above the ground a plane is flying and to give data for aircraft safety and navigation systems. According to Reuters, altimeter readouts are used to ease automated landings and to detect wind shear, which is a harmful current.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby stated in December that the FAA’s 5G directives will prohibit the use of radio altimeters at around 40 of the country’s busiest airports.

According to US airlines, this might affect up to 4% of daily flights.

Why Do Telecom Companies Want Higher Frequency?

Telecom service providers want to operate at higher frequencies in order to fully exploit the promise of 5G. The speed of a telecommunications service is determined by the frequency of the spectrum.

While Verizon and AT&T mobile networks have decided to postpone the introduction of 5G service, they previously maintained that C band 5G had been deployed in approximately 40 other nations without interfering with aviation, according to the Reuters article.
According to the research, France has buffer zones around airports to lessen interference hazards, and the networks agreed to put comparable safeguards in place at 50 US airports over six months.

According to the company, this should limit the likelihood of interference with systems on board planes. President Joe Biden stated in a statement that the delay will affect around 10% of the 5G masts participating in the technology’s expansion.

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