Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Will New 5G frequencies affect aircraft safety?

The FAA is concerned about radar altimeter interference from the C-Band

The FAA has begun to raise concerns about the potential for the newly auctioned C-Band frequencies and whether they will create interference with the operation of commercial aircraft. An FAA official in a recent letter stated the agency has “the deep concern about the potential impact to aviation safety resulting from interference to radar altimeter performance from 5G network operations in the C-band.” Other FAA officials have said that they are continuing to engage with other government agencies to keep passengers safe and technology and aviation can safely share the skies.

This topic has been under discussion between the FAA and the FCC for a while. The issue appears to be a concern that radio altimeters use frequencies adjacent to the C-Band and COULD cause interference. A number of major players asked the FCC to delay the C-Band auction that raised about $80 Billion dollars for the Treasury ( a new auction record for spectrum). The FCC also commented “altimeters operate with more than 200 MHz of separation from the C-band spectrum to be auctioned, more protection than is afforded in some other countries.”

Prior to the auction a number of major aviation players voiced concerns about this issue but it was ultimately decided to move forward with the auction. This group, which included airlines, manufacturers and aviation unions, said that work was done and reviewed by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics and that 5G network transmissions seemed to have the risk of harmful interference on many different types of aircraft. The interference has the potential to have broad consequences to aviation in the US and around the world. While even members of Congress joined in the fray, the auction went forward on schedule with calls for the FAA and the FCC to work to insure the safety of passengers and crews on US flights.

CTIA Weighs in

CTIA, the Cellular Telephone Industry Association, weighed in and said recently that 5G network operators can safely use C-Band frequencies that will not cause any harmful interference to aviation equipment. The ability for the US to compete on the world stage depends on the energetic rollout of 5G and even now it is operational in over 35 countries using C-Band frequencies without incident.

Is this issue serious or a red herring? Let’s hope that the experts at the FCC are correct and our aviation industry continues to be the safest in the world.

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