US telecoms companies plan to turn on 5G networks across the US, but airline bosses warn that potential interference with planes could cause a "catastrophic" crisis
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has raised concerns that 5G telephone networks will interfere with radio altimeters fitted to some aircraft. These are crucial for making landings in poor visibility and for helicopters flying at low altitude. Nonetheless, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has authorised the roll-out of these networks, including the placement of phone masts near airports.
The radio spectrum is a public resource, and it is both congested and hotly contested [doc.gov] in the US. Nothing goes to waste and industries lobby hard to secure their portion. Unfortunately, the part of the spectrum set aside for vital aircraft operations sits very close to that assigned for 5G in the US and raises the chance of interference.
There is no single part of the electromagnetic spectrum that 5G occupies. Some countries are using 600 megahertz to 900 megahertz, which isn’t dissimilar to 4G. Some are placing it between 2.3 gigahertz and 4.7 gigahertz, which boosts data speed somewhat. And others are using 24 gigahertz to 47 gigahertz, which requires more towers but offers even higher data speeds. In many cases a network will use a mix of these. In the US, the frequencies allocated for 5G are closer to those used by aircraft than those allocated by the EU.
Radio altimeters operate in the 4.2 gigahertz to 4.4 gigahertz band, and the US has set aside a portion of the spectrum [fcc.gov] right up to the lower band of that for 5G. In Europe, the comparable band ends at 4 gigahertz [5g.co.uk].
[...] Time will tell how the matter is resolved, but, in truth, both the telecoms industry and the airline industry are too profitable for a solution not to be found quickly. It is likely that existing altimeters will be rated as safe eventually, or new ones will be designed that are more robust against 5G interference.
NEW SCIENTIST [newscientist.com]
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