January 24, 2023

Growing anxiety in aviation over 5G wireless technology


Chinedu Eze

The aviation industry is troubled by the introduction of 5G wireless technology in all parts of the world, especially in the United States.
The concern stems from the fact that the new system could conflict with flight signals and compromise the flow of communication at critical times when an aircraft is landing and taking off.

5G is defined as the 5th generation mobile network. It is a new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G networks. 5G is said to enable a new type of network designed to connect virtually everyone and everything, including machines, things and devices.

5G wireless technology is intended to deliver higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, increased reliability, massive network capacity, increased uptime, and a smoother user experience for more people. users. It should also deliver higher performance and improved efficiency, enable new user experiences and connect new industries.

But this is where it comes into conflict with aviation.
According to former Aero Contractors Managing Director Captain Ado Sanusi, the problem with 5G wireless started when the aviation industry discovered that the C-band frequency used in the new system is close to the same frequency. than that used in modern aircraft, a radio altimeter installed on board an aircraft that alerts the pilot of height above terrain when approaching for landing or take-off. The radio altimeter is generally active from 5000 feet.

Sanusi also explained that the C-band frequency is divided into three: n77, n78 and n79. If these frequencies are deployed, it is believed that they would interfere with the aircraft’s radio altimeter.

Sanusi explained that in the United States, aircraft manufacturers wanted the Department of Transportation (DoT) to tell telecommunications network providers to delay the deployment of 5G wireless in the United States for at least two weeks, but the Telecom providers refused, arguing that other countries had introduced the system, including European countries and China.

“Then airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) asked network providers not to deploy 5G wireless at airports, but network providers threatened to sue the DoT and FAA, insisting on the fact that they had invested $80 billion in the network.

“They are now trying to agree on what needs to be done to prevent any possible danger or to ensure that the danger is minimized in flight operations. Telecom providers are right when they say 5G wireless has been introduced in France, but the one being rolled out in France is n78, which is supposed to move away from the radio altimeter on planes and consumes less power ; there is therefore less possible interference. The N77 is used in the United States, which is closer to the radio altimeter than the n78, but they said that the n77 has a wider range,” he explained.

Sanusi therefore urged the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) and the NCAA to meet and determine the frequency to be used around the airport.

“The effect of rolling out 5G wireless around the airport is that it could lead to a missed approach, but it’s not extremely dangerous but it could create inconvenience for airlines and passengers. It could lead to flight delays and cancellations,” he said.

Reports say that last week, US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and the head of the Federal Aviation Administration asked AT&T and Verizon Communications to delay the planned January 5 introduction of new 5G wireless services for security reasons. Aerial.

Reuters reported that Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson had asked AT&T Chief Executive John Stankey and Verizon Chief Executive Hans Vestberg for a delay of no more than two weeks as part of a a “short-term solution proposal to advance 5G coexistence”. C-band deployment and safe flight operations.

The report confirmed that the aviation industry and the FAA have raised concerns about potential 5G interference with sensitive aircraft electronics like radio altimeters that could disrupt flights.
“We ask your companies to continue to suspend the introduction of commercial C-Band service for an additional short period of up to two weeks beyond the currently scheduled rollout date of January 5,” the letter reads.

Reuters said Verizon and AT&T both said they had received the letter and were reviewing it and earlier on Friday (last week) the two companies accused the aerospace industry of seeking to hijack the spectrum deployment of the C-band until the wireless industry agrees to cover the costs of upgrading outdated altimeters.

Buttigieg and Dickson said that under the framework “commercial C-band service would begin as planned in January with some exceptions around priority airports.”
The FAA and the aviation industry would identify priority airports “where a buffer zone would allow flight operations to continue safely while the FAA completes its assessments of the potential for interference.”

Reuters said the government would work to identify “mitigations for all priority airports” to allow most “large commercial aircraft to operate safely in all conditions”. This would allow deployment around “priority airports on a rolling basis” – with the aim of ensuring activation by March 31 barring unforeseen problems.

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