US: Airlines fear 5G networks near airports will cause ‘chaos’

US airlines fear a potential “chaos” caused by the spread of 5G in the United States, a fear that is due to the risks of interference between the frequencies used by mobile internet technology and the boarding instruments necessary to land planes.

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How is 5G likely to pose a risk to aviation?

The frequencies used by 5G are close to those used by aircraft radio altimeters. US phone operators have allocated a frequency band of 3.7 to 3.98 gigahertz (GHz) for the needs of the fifth generation, a right for which they have paid tens of billions of dollars.

The aviation sector fears that this will distort data from radio altimeters, a radar that measures the distance of an aircraft from the ground, which is essential for night instruments, particularly for landing or in poor visibility. These operate in the 4.2 to 4.4 GHz spectrum.

If there is no danger of direct interference between frequencies, the transmit power of 5G antennas or part of the broadcast directed upwards can cause a problem for some altimeters, likely to be jammed by these nearby frequencies.

What did the US authorities decide?

Airbus and Boeing had alerted US authorities in December to these “potential interferences”, after the US aviation agency (FAA) obtained a 5G launch delay to January 19, the time to ensure total security of the system.

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“If there is a potential risk to aircraft occupants, we are obligated to restrict the flight activity in question until we have demonstrated that it is safe,” she said.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has validated the use of two radio altimeter models and granted approval for 48 of the 88 US airports most directly affected by the risk of 5G interference.

Is the danger unique to the United States?

It’s not a global or European topic, it’s really a specific topic about 5G use and implementation in the US in terms of frequency bands and power. ‘Airbus Guillaume Faury in early January.’

In Europe, 5G’s base frequency band is set to be between 3.4 and 3.8 GHz, frequencies closer to those of radio altimeters than across the Atlantic.

In South Korea, a country that is very advanced in deploying this mobile technology, 5G frequencies do not exceed 3.7 GHz. Japan, which allows its operators to go up to 4.1 GHz, does not provide “any mitigation measures below 4 GHz – that is, there are no restrictions in the spectrum where 5G operations are in the US – and there have been no advertisements for interference,” argues CTIA, the organization that brings operators together. American cell phones.

What are the measures to reduce risks?

Protection zones, antenna orientation and transmitting power: France has taken the risk of interference from the end of 2020.

“Protection zones have been established around 17 major French airports applying precise landing procedures in all weather conditions in order to limit the transmitting power of 5G antennas in the immediate vicinity of these airports,” according to the administration. General of Civil Aviation (DGAC).

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“We are in a normal framework of risk reduction and prevention,” jointly with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), says the same source.

5G operators must limit the power of emissions and cannot direct their packets upwards in “safety and protective zones” that extend for several kilometers at each end of the path, according to the National Agency of Frequencies (ANFR).

In fact, the precautionary zones set up around US airports pertain only to the last 20 seconds of a plane’s flight, compared to 96 seconds in France, the US Federal Aviation Administration notes. Operators are not required to tilt their 5G antennas down as in France and the transmission power is stronger.

“In the United States, temporarily reduced capacity levels as planned across the country will remain 2.5 times higher than in France,” the US regulator admits.

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