5G Interference: Frequently Asked Questions

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FAQ1

As the FAA and the aviation industry have consistently warned, the new 5G service has the potential to interfere with radio altimeters, which are crucial aircraft avionics that measure the distance between an aircraft and the ground. ​The radio altimeter also provides input to other critical safety, flight control and alerting aircraft systems. Safety is and always will be the top priority of U.S. airlines, and we will fully comply with directives issued by our federal regulator, the FAA.
It is well documented that the FAA and the aviation industry have been consistently warning the FCC about the potential for interference with aircraft radio altimeters since 2018. In May of that year, Airlines for America filed comments raising those concerns in response to an FCC public notice about the potential use of the frequencies.
We fully support 5G – but it needs to be deployed in a manner that allows 5G and aviation to coexist safely.

The telecom industry says 5G service has been deployed in dozens of other countries without any interference with radio altimeters. How do you answer that?

Source: FAA.gov/5G

Comparisons of international examples versus U.S. 5G deployment are apples-to-oranges comparisons. Other countries heeded aviation concerns and addressed them through mitigations. The allocated frequencies for 5G internationally are generally farther away from the radio frequency band used by radio altimeters. In addition, the permitted power levels are often significantly lower than those authorized in the U.S. Many other countries have also effectively utilized a combination of exclusion zones around airports, lower power levels and directional changes to antennas to mitigate interference. Examples:

  • Europe: The 3400-3800 MHz band is utilized for 5G. However, there is a separation of an additional 100 MHz compared with that provided in the U.S. The power levels permitted in most of Europe are 23% lower than those permitted in the U.S.
  • France: Imposed permanent 5G buffer zones and required antennas to be tilted down. The power level permitted is 60% lower than even the temporary lower power level allowed in the U.S.
  • United Kingdom: Power levels are lower in the frequency ranges 3400-3800 MHz and 3805-4195 MHz by 62% and 99% respectively.
  • Japan: Deployed 5G up to 4100 MHz. However, the macro cell power levels are 96% below or only 4% of that permitted in the U.S.
  • South Korea: 5G is limited to 3420-3700 MHz and the maximum permitted 5G power is 95% lower than U.S. levels.
  • Australia: Operates even farther away from the radio frequency band used by radio altimeters. The power levels permitted are 76% lower than those allowed in the U.S.

The U.S. telecom providers were poised to activate new 5G services at higher power levels and on more critical radio frequencies than anywhere in the world without the necessary safety mitigations near airports.

FAQ2

The telecommunications companies agreed on January 18, 2022 to deploy 5G on the January 19, 2022 5G rollout except around key airports and to continue working with the federal government on safe 5G deployment at those locations. These agreements averted widespread disruption to the National Airspace System, the traveling and shipping public, the global supply chain and the U.S. economy. The President has said that the Administration will continue to work with all stakeholders “to close the remaining gap and reach a permanent, workable solution around these key airports.” The aviation industry is continuing to work with the FAA to limit flight disruptions and further assess how radio altimeters perform in the 5G environment. According to the FAA, “Disruption risk will gradually decrease as more altimeters are tested and either deemed safe, retrofitted or replaced.”
If the new 5G deployment near airports had gone forward without mitigations, it could have disrupted as many as 345,000 passenger flights and 5,400 cargo flights per year with delays, diversions and cancellations. That would have impacted more than 32 million travelers as well as people who depend on air cargo for shipping. A January 17, 2022 letter signed by all A4A member CEOs warned, “The ripple effects across both passenger and cargo operations, our workforce and the broader economy are simply incalculable.” The letter went on to say that passenger and cargo carriers would struggle to get people, shipments, planes and crews where they need to be if 5G were deployed near airports, adding that the nation’s commerce would grind to a halt.
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