We’ve heard a lot about 5G and airplane interference in the news this week and I want to break down the issue as simply as possible. Put simply, the entire controversy is government dysfunction at its finest and there is not one shred of evidence that new 5G networks will jam aircraft radio signals or cause any other kind of flight disruptions.
5G + Airplane Interference
In a nutshell:
- The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are using 1950s technology to put forward concerns of interference from 5G
- But modern airplanes are totally shielded from such interference
- More than 30 countries are already using the spectrum with no impact to air travel or safety
- The FCC sold $80 billion of (C-Band) spectrum to mobile carriers fully understanding the bands at play
- Now the same government agency that sold the spectrum is saying it too dangerous to use it
- The wireless carriers already agreed to give the radio altimeter spectrum a much larger buffer than other countries have given, but that has not pacified regulators
- Government dysfunction at its finest…your tax dollars at work
The FAA is concerned that 5G service might interfere with aircraft radio altimeters. Radio altimeters measure altitude by measuring how long it takes to bounce radio waves from the aircraft to the ground and back to the aircraft.
There is concern that if radio altimeters are deemed compromised, airlines will have to rely upon older visual cues. So in a case of bad weather, if pilots could not see the runway in a 5G area, they would need to find another airport to land…or cancel the flight.
Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines, said:
“If we go back to decades-old procedures and technology for flying airplanes, cancel thousands of flights per day…it will be a catastrophic failure of government.”
The good news is that airlines and wireless carriers are in constant contact with federal government regulators. There is hope that the issue can be resolved before the planned rollout of 5G on January 5th by Verizon and AT&T at a higher spectrum.
But the bottom line is this: there is no proven evidence that 5G causes flight interference. Quite the contrary, nations around the world have introduced 5G and there has not been as single documented case of a radio altimeter malfunctioning or any other flight tool not working as intended that can be traced to 5G.
While a November 2nd FAA bulletin warns of 5G’s “potential adverse effects on radio altimeters,” it adds even in countries which allow 5G transmissions above the FCC-set 3.98 GHz, there have been “no proven reports of harmful interference.”
Sometimes acting “out of an abundance of caution” becomes a stumbling block that inhibits progress over unfounded fears. That seems to be the case when it come to the rollout of 5G, with the same regulators who sold the spectrum now concerned it is too dangerous to use, despite a plethora of evidence that suggests otherwise.
There exists no viable evidence to suggest that 5G is unsafe for airplanes.
I think it would be quite unlikely particularly due to the way (I think) radar works:
As the plane moves, the effective frequency will change (particularly on approach, it will shift “blue”) so any interference will be negated in microseconds. The radar will have filtering in place to tell if interference is going on that will become evident in normal airport operations (it shouldn’t sneak up and surprise anyone.)
i appreciate the FAA finally paying attention; but these kinds of details are what give government a somewhat tiresome name. There is no sense in all of the players being involved in brinksmanship…..make a deal….lets not revolt against the future.
Like you said above Airbus and the Radio Altimeter manufactures have not see any interference issues outside the United States were C-Band 5G is already in use. But there are two big caveats. Location relative to airports and power levels.
International carriers are using their spectrum at a lower power level that US carriers.
There are restrictions on how close C-Band 5G towers can be to airports that don’t exist in the US.
Something is missing here, it sounded to me like Boeing and Airbus are the ones asking to delay the roll out, surely they know what will cause problem with the airplanes they are building. Or is absolutely everything political now and up for argument online?
I work in the cellular testing industry, and extensive testing has already been done and there is zero risk if these radio altimeters suffering interference from 5G. Radio altimeters use code-based signals, so many planes with the same radar can use the same frequency. It’s virtually impossible to jam this equipment, and they operate with 10x the power of cell towers to get a signal bounce from the ground, so if anything, the planes will interfere with the cell towers, not the other way around. The same technology that allows hundreds of phones to connect on the same frequency proves that the technology is highly stable and works fine at airports where it’s already been rolled out in other countries. This is another red herring, and panic over nothing.