Monday, May 16

5G: Why are airlines afraid of interference with their planes in the United States?

During the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, several airlines chose to cancel flights in the United States due to the installation of new 5G antennas near airports.

Emirates, ANA, Japan Airlines and Air India are among the first companies to cancel flights to the United States this week, as the FAA (the American aviation authority) sounded the alarm on “possible interference between the frequencies used by 5G and those used by onboard instruments essential to the landing of aircraft under certain conditions, and demanded adjustments”.

While American operators AT&T and Verizon were to activate new 5G antennas across the country this Wednesday, January 19, the latter have chosen to temporarily suspend their deployment. The authorities indeed fear “chaos” in the sky of the United States. Ten air transport companies had called earlier this week on the authorities to intervene urgently on the issue in order to prevent “a major disruption” in traffic.

A problem on the table for two years

A problem taken very seriously until the White House where President Joe Biden welcomed, in a press release, the decision of the two operators in order to avoid “potentially devastating disruptions”, according to him, of air traffic while allowing the activation of the majority of mobile phone towers planned for 5G.

However, AT&T and Verizon are surprised that this deployment, planned for two years, is only now being considered by the authorities. The FAA and the country’s airlines “have not been able to solve the problem of 5G around airports even though it has been deployed safely and efficiently in more than 40 other countries”, announced to the press. ‘AFP a Verizon spokesperson.

Half of the airports awaiting validation

According to a report published by the FAA last November, “certain frequencies at AT&T and Verizon for their 5G deployment, which range from 3.7 to 3.98 gigahertz (GHz), are close to those used by radars, which operate in the 4.2 to 4.4 GHz spectrum”. If the report specifies that there is no risk of direct interference, “the transmission power of the 5G antennas, in particular part of those directed upwards could pose a problem for certain altimeters likely to be jammed by these close frequencies”, one explains in substance.

For now, the FAA has validated the use of certain radio altimeter models for 48 of the 88 American airports most directly affected by the risk of interference. Hence the concern of the companies around the airports which have not yet obtained this approval.

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