5G has had its fair share of criticism, controversies and conspiracy theories. However, much of it was set aside and 5G was given the green signal. Now, just as 5G is starting to be deployed at various locations across the globe, the aviation industry has sounded an alarm bell. Around ten airline companies in US have raised objections against deployment of 5G network around airports. For better understanding, let’s take a look at how 5G network can impact flight operations.
In US, airline companies are opposing the setting up of 5G towers that use C-Band. These are being set up by AT&T and Verizon. Airline companies have said that C-Band 5G signals can interfere with signals of radio altimeters installed on planes. These altimeters are used to measure the aircraft’s height above the ground.
If the claims are true, 5G C-Band signals can create interference with the plane’s landing. It can have devastating consequences. Radio altimeters are also used for other safety and navigation systems. They operate in 4.2 to 4.4 GHz range whereas C-Band 5G operates at 3.7 to 3.98 GHz range. This close proximity is being considered as a major risk factor for airplanes.
How serious is the risk?
As per a report published by Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA), C-Band 5G can create serious failures in aircrafts. It can lead to multiple fatalities. Even FAA has issued a warning that C-Band 5G can create problems, especially with particular type of planes such as Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. 5G interference could make the plane go faster at the time of landing, which may cause it to veer off the runaway.
How safe will you be?
One solution is to limit the use of radio altimeters. However, this may not be feasible, as it would result in the grounding of hundreds of planes. Moreover, planes won’t be able to land in poor visibility if they are not allowed to use radio altimeters.
The best option currently available is to setup up buffer zones around airports. This has already been implemented at specific airports by FAA. Telecom carriers have taken note of the warnings and have temporarily suspended rollout of C-Band 5G near airports.
For a permanent solution, researchers are working to identify exactly which types of radio altimeters are most likely to be impacted by C-Band 5G. This may take some time, as a number of variables and environments need to be evaluated.
What 5G firms are saying?
Even though 5G rollout has been suspended near airports, Verizon and AT&T don’t seem to be happy with the developments. It may be recalled that this rollout has already been postponed twice in the past. 5G firms are saying that regulators had plenty of time to plan 5G rollout, but roadblocks are being created just at the time of launch. They also said that 5G is available in several countries without any major issues with aircrafts.
Is this a global problem?
It is important to note that this problem is specific to United States and other countries where C-Band 5G network is being used. For countries that operate 5G networks at other frequencies, there are unlikely to be any significant risks. To completely eliminate the risk of 5G interfering with aircraft systems, some countries have created buffer zones around their airports. A permanent fix for such issues can be expected in the near future.