The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has revealed 50 airports that will be subject to 5G ‘buffer zones’ to reduce any risk of interference with aircraft equipment.
US mobile operators are gearing up to deploy 5G services using mid-range ‘C-Band’ spectrum that offers a compromise between the range and indoor penetration characteristics of low-range airwaves and the huge capacity offered by high-band frequencies.
AT&T, T-Mobile, US Wireless, and Verizon all won licences for C-Band spectrum in an auction last year that raised $80 billion for the American government.
5G airport buffers
However, the FAA is concerned that C-Band 5G will affect key instruments. Specifically, it fears that 5G services using this spectrum could affect sensitive aviation electronics like altimeters that rely on frequencies located between 4.2GHz and 4.4GHz. Operators have dismissed the claims.
Nonetheless, both AT&T and Verizon Wireless agreed to delay the launch of their respective services and introduce measures that mitigate any perceived issues, including airport buffer zones.
Airports in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Detroit, Dallas, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Miami are covered by the new restrictions, with some airports excluded because they do not permit low-visibility landings or because 5G towers are not close enough to cause concern.
“The agency sought input from the aviation community where the proposed buffer zones would help reduce the risk of disruption,” said the FAA. “Traffic volume, the number of low-visibility days and geographic location factored into the selection.
“The wireless companies agreed to turn off transmitters and make other adjustments near these airports for six months to minimize potential 5G interference with sensitive aircraft instruments used in low-visibility landings.
“The FAA continues to work with the aerospace manufacturers and wireless companies to make sure 5G is safely deployed and to limit the risk of flight disruptions at all airports.”
Mobile operators and industry bodies say there is no credible evidence of interference, noting that other countries have deployed C-Band 5G with no problems and that there is a sufficient spectrum gap between bandwidth allocated for mobile and for aviation. Others have questioned why the FAA has waited so long before expressing is concerns.