• Recently, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned that the new 5G technology could interfere with sensitive navigation equipment such as altimeters, which could lead to “catastrophic disruptions.”
  • Airlines across the world, including India, are adjusting their scheduled flights to the US due to the rollout of 5G by telecom companies near American airports.

5G Technology

  • 5G is the 5th generation mobile network. It is a new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks.
  • It enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices.
  • Internet speeds in the high-band spectrum of 5G has been tested to be as high as 20 Gbps (gigabits per second), while, in most cases, the maximum internet data speed in 4G has been recorded at 1 Gbps.
  • In India, Satcom Industry Association-India (SIA) has voiced concerns over the Government’s plan to include the Millimetre Wave (mm Wave) bands in the 5G spectrum auction.

Important points:

  • The higher the frequency in the spectrum, the faster the service. So in order to get full value from 5G, operators want to operate at higher frequencies.
  • Some of the C band (a radio frequency band between 3.7 and 4.2 GHz) spectrum auctioned had been used for satellite radio but the transition to 5G means there will be much more traffic.
  • The new C band 5G service could render a significant number of aircraft unusable, causing chaos for US flights and potentially stranding tens of thousands of Americans overseas.
  • The United States auctioned mid-range 5G bandwidth to mobile phone companies in early 2021 in the C band, for about USD 80 billion.
  • FAA warned that the functioning of Altimeters, which measure how far above the ground an aeroplane is travelling, operating in the 4.2-4.4 GHz range which sits too close to the frequency of C range, may get hampered.
  • In addition to altitude, altimeter readouts are also used to facilitate automated landings and to help detect dangerous currents called wind shear.
  • Companies have argued that C band 5G has been deployed in about 40 other countries without aviation interference issues. They have agreed to buffer zones around 50 airports in the United States, similar to those used in France, for six months to reduce interference risks.
  • In the short-term, Companies agreed to temporarily defer turning on some wireless towers near key airports to avert a significant disruption to US flights.
  • In the Longer-term, the FAA needs to clear and allow the vast majority of the US commercial aeroplane fleet to perform low-visibility landings at many airports where 5G C-band will be deployed. This means certifying altimeters to operate near 5G base stations.


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