Doubts Remain Over US Air Travel Safety Over 5G Rollout

WASHINGTON — An unresolved disagreement between U.S. wireless carriers and commercial airlines over the deployment of new 5G networks continues to create confusion about whether air travel is safe in the United States. On Wednesday, AT&T and Verizon, the largest providers of mobile voice and Internet services in the US, began turning on new wireless towers in the United States, making ultra-fast 5G spectrum available to consumers, mainly in the most densely populated parts of the country. populated in the country.

Until the last moment, there was a dispute between carriers and major US airlines over whether or not the new service would be deployed near airports. This caused a handful of international airlines, including British Airways, Lufthansa, All Nippon, Japan Airlines and Emirates, to announce that they would suspend some services to the United States until the problem was resolved. Emirates President Tim Clark described the situation as “totally irresponsible” during an interview with CNN.

By Thursday morning, most of the concern about international flights had been resolved, but lingering questions remain about America’s vast regional air travel system. Possible interference with landing instruments The 5G C-band spectrum signal used for mobile communications, for which mobile operators paid more than $80 billion at auction last year, is similar to the signal they use commercial airlines to measure the altitude of landing planes during inclement weather.


Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have raised concerns that some aircraft devices, called radar altimeters, may experience interference from new 5G signals, creating dangerous conditions. Mobile phone operators said they would delay the activation of 5G towers near airport runways, leaving about 10% of the planned rollout idle.

Additionally, the FAA specifically approved several types of radar altimeters, including those commonly used on the Boeing 777, and said data shows 5G signals do not interfere with its systems. In a press release, the agency also explained that its new approvals “allow approximately 62 percent of the US commercial fleet to make low-visibility landings at airports where wireless companies have deployed 5G C-band.

Regional airports waiting for answers While the FAA’s steps to authorize the continued use of large passenger planes following the 5G rollout have helped prevent problems at large airports, the new technology is raising concerns about security at regional airports in the United States. across the country, which are served by a wide variety of passenger aircraft typically smaller than those that fly to major hub airports. As of Wednesday, the FAA had not updated guidance for many smaller planes.

Because there was a relative lack of systems due to severe weather in the US, which did not translate into major delays. However, industry representatives stated that it was only a matter of time before challenging weather conditions began to cause problems.

Faye Malarkey Black, president and CEO of the Association of Regional Airlines, took to Twitter to voice her concerns about the situation, writing: “Situation update: 0% of the regional airline fleet has been cleared for low-flying landings. visibility at airports affected by #5G. if/when the weather drops below the lows.

Today’s good weather is saving rural America from a serious air service disruption.” Not a new problem The battle between airlines and mobile operators is particularly frustrating for many in the US, because it’s a problem that has been successfully solved in other countries around the world. China, the UK, and France, for example, have managed to roll out 5G service without any significant impact on air travel.

That was achieved through agreements between the parties that limited the number of cell towers near airports and the power levels at which they operate. In a warning to its members, the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations noted that, in the US, “5G signal power levels and proximity are currently at higher power levels than any other deployment in use in other parts of the world”.

The situation was complicated by the fact that the portion of spectrum used for 5G services is slightly different here than in Europe. In the US, mobile phone operators bought the rights to the band between 3.7 and 3.98 gigahertz, putting their signals a little closer to the 4.2 to 4.4 GHz used by airlines than European mobile carriers, which are limited to a range of 3.4 to 3.8 GHz.

Bureaucratic dysfunction The confusion resulting from this week’s 5G launch is attributed, at least in part, to dysfunction within the federal bureaucracy. Analysts say the lines of authority between the agencies responsible for auctioning wireless spectrum rights and those charged with managing conflicts are unclear.

The Federal Communications Commission is responsible for spectrum auctions, but it is the Federal Aviation Administration, a part of the Department of Transportation, that makes decisions about airline safety. To further complicate matters, the agency in charge of mediating spectrum disputes, which sits within the Commerce Department, was without a director for two and a half years, until President Biden’s nominee was confirmed last week.

That situation has led to multiple problems in the deployment of new communications technology over the years, including a recent battle during the Trump administration over whether new spectrum auctions would interfere with the satellite-based Global Positioning System.



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