US FAA Warns Of Flight Safety Risks Without 5G Limitations

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wants the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to impose a delay in some 5G C-Band transmissions from smaller operators, warning that unregulated 5G could potentially pose a serious aviation safety risk.

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Billy Nolen, the acting administrator of the FAA, has asked the FCC to require 19 smaller telcos and other spectrum holders to comply with voluntary mitigations that AT&T and Verizon agreed to earlier this year. In a letter sent to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Nolen cited industry data that established "aviation safety would be compromised if the U.S. government does not codify certain additional operating limits in the 5G C-Band environment."

Altimeters, which provide information on a plane's height above the ground and are essential for landing in severe weather, are thought to be susceptible to interference from 5G services. This concern caused difficulties at some US airports earlier this year.

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Verizon and AT&T voluntarily agreed in June to postpone certain C-Band 5G usage until July 2023 while aviation carriers work to retrofit aircraft to ensure they won't experience interference — the letter said that even with radio frequency filters, "retrofitted aircraft would be susceptible to interference if the report and order is not modified". In January, airline CEOs issued a "catastrophic" aviation disaster alert that might have stopped practically all traffic due to the introduction of 5G.

According to the FAA letter, AT&T and Verizon's voluntary mitigations "have resulted in the safe deployment of more than 50,000 wireless antennas across the nation." It was stated that "the FAA has no authority" to demand that the other 19 spectrum holders take the same safety measures.

In the US, 5G operating in the C-band is in the range of 3.7-3.98 GHz while in Malaysia, the C-band used is in 3.4-3.6 GHz. Similarly, Singapore should not be concerned by the FAA's warning as the city-state's 5G spectrum ranges from 100MHz to 3.5GHz.

  • The US FAA wants the FCC to delay 5G C-band transmission from 19 smaller operators and to mandate voluntary mitigations.

  • Earlier this year, Verizon and AT&T voluntarily agreed to postpone certain C-Band 5G usage due to concerns it could interfere with aircraft altimeters.

  • The FAA says it has no authority to make the smaller spectrum holders take the same safety measures.