Why is it that the US has slowed the rollout of 5 G’s mobile internet technology in airports
SeveralSeveral international airlines have recently canceled flights to specific US airports due to concerns about the introduction of 5G mobile technology that could cause interference with specific aircraft’s equipment.
After being warned about the possible problem by aviation executives and officials from the Federal Aviation Administration, telecommunications companies AT&T and Verizon put off the activation of certain 5G masts in US airports.
However, how can 5G affect planes? Can the issue be solved? Let’s look.
In use in various countries across the globe, 5G is the fifth technological advancement in mobile phones. It may offer network speeds as high as 100 times more than we’ve had in 4G.
To ensure the highest speeds and the most excellent coverage, AT&T and Verizon had thought of creating 5G internet utilizing C-band frequency C-band frequencies, which are radio frequency (or radio waves) in the range of 3.7 to 3.98 gigahertz (GHz).
These frequencies are similar to those modern aircraft utilize for measuring altitude. A crucial piece of aircraft equipment is referred to as a radio altimeter. Radio altimeter operates on C-band frequencies that range from 4.2-4.4GHz. Pilots depend on radio altimeters to safely land their planes, especially when visibility is low, like when mountains enclose airports or when conditions are cloudy.
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The concern is that, due to the narrow gap between the frequencies of the 5G and the radio altimeters, the radio waves from 5G towers near airports could cause interference. People using 5G on their phones could inadvertently distort or damage the radio altimeter’s signal.
If this occurs, even if only for a few seconds, it could mean the pilot didn’t get the correct information when landing. It’s for this reason that US Federal Aviation Administration raised concerns.
The world has been experimenting with 5G technology.
So, what can be done?
Other countries with 5G are using frequencies in the C-band that overlap with or are similar to radio altimeters, with any reports of issues. For instance, in the UK, 5G speeds to 4GHz. Avoiding mountains in the vicinity of airports minimizes the chance of interference.
Other countries run 5G at a frequency slightly higher than the equipment used by aircraft. Within Europe, for instance. in European Union, for example, 5G can go upwards to 3.8GHz. This is a feasible alternative to use for US airports.
The most effective option for the future is to choose an even higher band for 5G. This could be between 24 and 47 GHz. In these frequencies, speeds for data are considerably higher; however, that coverage is significantly smaller (so you’ll need many towers).
There is also a way to decrease the strength of signals from airport towers, as France tried in France and Canada. It’s not about changing the frequency, as signal strength is expressed in decibels, not GHz, but limiting the signal’s power could reduce the chance of interference with neighboring bands.
Another option is to change the range of frequency for radio altimeters. This would require some time and could be costly to the aviation industry.
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While the risk of an in-flight complication due to 5G interference may be shallow, as we’re talking about human safety, we must take any possible risks very seriously. The move to delay rolling out 5G masts near US airports is a good option while the relevant authorities determine the safest way forward.