Aviation industry seeks to extend 5G deadline

The end of the year marks the deadline for airlines to modernize their fleets to protect them from interference from C-band 5G wireless service. According to a coalition of major aviation players, however, the challenges of supply chain have prevented the industry from meeting this deadline.

The group of nearly two dozen aviation companies and organizations, which includes Embraer, Boeing, Airbus and the International Air Transport Association, is seeking an extension to the December 2022 deadline for small regional jets and July 2023 for large transport aircraft.

Where does 5G come from?

The activation of 5G aims to improve Internet speeds. AT&T wireless carriers (NYSE:T) and Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) said 5G is needed as cellular data needs increase.

According to industry officials, interference from 5G signals can compromise radio altimeters on board airliners, which can pose a safety hazard in low-visibility situations. The data provided by radio altimeters gives the pilot information about the height of the aircraft above the ground and provides information for several other sophisticated aircraft onboard systems used by airlines. When this data is suspect, the plane cannot land.

As an interim measure in January 2022, wireless companies voluntarily reduced the power of 5G towers near airports to help protect air traffic while the industry focused on developing protections against interference.

Interference still occurs, according to members of the aviation industry’s 5G coalition.

“Since January 2022, the FAA has documented more than 100 FAA incidents of potential 5G interference, the majority of which have been found to directly impact radar altimeter resulting in safety alerts by systems such as the terrain avoidance warning system. [TAWS]“, indicates the letter of the coalition. “Unfortunately, US government agencies don’t seem to be on the same page when it comes to these security issues. As a result, aviation stakeholders are caught in the crossfire and ultimately passengers and shippers will be the ones to bear the brunt of any operational disruption caused if this issue is not addressed. »

The November 15 letter was sent to Brian Deese, director of the executive office of the president of the National Economic Council; Gina M. Raimondo Secretary of Commerce, US Department of Commerce; Pete Buttigieg, transportation secretary; Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, US Department of Commerce; and Billy Nolen, Acting Administrator, FAA.

I worked on it

Throughout the year, radio altimeter manufacturers worked with OEMs Embraer, Boeing, Airbus and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to develop and test filters and installation kits for these aircraft. The kits were then installed at the respective airline maintenance facilities.

In the United States, the FAA has worked with airlines and the telecommunications industry to keep pace with radio altimeter retrofits while also working with wireless companies to relax mitigation measures around key airports in phases. carefully studied.

“In addition to our continued and productive collaboration with aviation and wireless stakeholders, the FAA is committed to working with its fellow federal regulators to address longer-term concerns regarding the safe and continued coexistence of aviation and 5G C-band wireless communications,” the FAA said. FLYING in a report.

How we got here

In January 2022, wireless carriers started broadcasting in C-band 5G to improve network speed. Since then, the aviation industry has raced to determine the impact this would have on air traffic. Among the compromises made were limiting the power of wireless transmissions and creating transmission-free buffer zones around the busiest airports.

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