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USA airline chiefs warn of 5G aviation safety debacle

Mobile News
January 18, 2022

Bandwidth danger not applicable in the UK and Europe

UK mobile networks have said there is danger to civil aviation safety or flight disruption in the UK and Europe from 5G signals.

This follows concern from airlines in the US that the imminent switch-on of 5GU in the C-Band could interfere with pilot’s instrument readings.

Most of Europe and the rest of the world use 3.2-3.8GHz. But the US 5G bandwidth goes up to 4.1-4.2GHz.

US airlines have written urgently to the US Secretary of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Communications Commission to say commercial aviation in the US “is facing major disruption of the travelling and shipping public based on our evaluation of data and discussion to resolve the issue of how best to deploy 5G C Band from radio towers a safe distance around US airports.

The letter is signed by the heads of nine airlines including American, Delta, JetBlue and United

The airline chiefs claim radio altimeters could be affected by 5G signals.

“Because radio altimeters provide critical information to other safety and navigation systems in modern airplanes, multiple safety systems on aircraft will be deemed unusable causing a much larger problem than we knew on January 6. Airplane manufacturers have informed us that there are huge swathes of the operating fleet that may need to be indefinitely grounded. In addition to the chaos caused domestically. This lack of usable wide body aircraft could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas.”

However this nightmare scenario is unlikely to affect UK civil aviation.

No interference 

“The UK’s mobile network operators follow all health and safety guidelines and engage with a variety of industries on interference. Mobile operators are actively coordinating with the aviation authorities to ensure no interference in the UK,” said Gareth Elliott, Head of Policy and Communications at Mobile UK the UK industry body for the four UK mobile networks.

A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority added: “We are aware of reports that suggest that the frequency band being used for 5G in a number of countries could potentially pose a risk of interference with aircraft radio altimeters.

“There have been no reported incidents of aircraft systems being affected by 5G transmissions in UK airspace, but we are nonetheless working with Ofcom and the Ministry of Defence to make sure that the deployment of 5G in the UK does not cause any technical problems for aircraft.”

A spokesperson for Ofcom said: “We’re aware that the aviation sector is looking at this; we’ve done our own technical analysis and are yet to see any evidence that would give us cause for concern.”

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