The American telecom operators AT&T and Verizon had started their 5G services on Wednesday, before postponing for the towers in the immediate vicinity of major American airports. Fortunately, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a new notice the same day regarding a new list of aircraft that can operate in buffer zones in the United States. The Boeing 777 is on that list, bringing relief to a few airlines, including Japan Airlines and Air India, which immediately announced they would resume services to the United States.
Aircraft radar altimeters operate between 4.2 and 4.4 GHz, the lower half of which falls into the 5G C-band range of 3.7 to 4.2 GHz. This may impair aircraft functions during descent. An aircraft communication system is at its peak, exploiting complex mathematics during landing. A single mistake can spell disaster. Some of the actions that are affected by the interference include thrust reverser deployment issues, radio altimeter data interruption, autothrottle system, and configuration warning.
Most of these functions are crucial when aircraft are flying, especially when an aircraft is approaching an airport in low light or snowfall conditions. These factors help the aircraft perform a safe landing. The sophisticated aircraft communication network is also an essential infrastructure as it communicates with air traffic control at all times and has interdependent functions.
For the Boeing 777 and Boeing 787, two of the most modern long-haul aircraft purchased and leased by airlines, the impact of 5G has been highlighted for some time by regulators, airlines and piloting bodies. . The airlines also collectively wrote a letter to Joe Biden recently, seeking his intervention on the matter. Over the past year, efforts to resolve the issue have been unsuccessful. Even the airlines weren’t really warned to prepare – if any preparation was possible.
Emirates, which operates a large number of Boeing 777s to the United States and connects various destinations through its Dubai hub, has already indicated that the relevant authorities should have warned the airline earlier. Then they probably could have found a solution, as the current disruption has affected their service.
Interestingly, while the Federation of Indian Pilots (FIP) has stated that 5G can hamper normal air traffic, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has dispelled fears, saying there is a huge gap – from 530 MHz – in the frequencies between 5G and aviation radar, and they will not overlap. India’s aviation and telecommunications regulators – the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and (DGCA) and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) – should engage with airlines and the airport authority to be on the same wavelength to solve the problem.
As rigorous trials of 5G are expected to be launched in India by the end of this year, careful planning of network deployments and management must be undertaken to account for concerns that may arise in critical sectors other than electricity. ‘aviation. Clearly, this is a technical issue that should have received attention before it was implemented using a total solution approach, even if it involved a “give and take” approach by the respective industries. .
Therefore, now that the disruptions are significant, the time has come to foster a viable model leading to a lasting solution. In the United States, telecom industries have suggested buffer zones to block 5G network in various cities to support air service. But this is a temporary solution that will require a more precise approach to deal with future aspects of telecommunication networks. 5G would be unstoppable at airports as consumer demands will drive it to roll out. Therefore, in aircraft design, manufacturers must find a way to allow the sensors and altimeter to work smoothly.
It is necessary to review the frequency bands of 5G networks as well as those of aircraft altimeters in order to eliminate interference. Regulators and industries must work together to make this happen.
The author is a defense and cybersecurity analyst