Airline passengers across the globe are worried after the recent news of flight cancellation due to 5G rollout near the airports in the US. Does 5G signals really affect airline safety?
Few international airlines raised concerns about the 5G rollout near the airports in the United States and cancelled some scheduled flights. According to airlines authorities, they have concerns about the 5G signals interfering with airplane equipment which could lead to severe accidents.
5G Signals and Flight equipment
Modern commercial aircrafts are equipped with complex instruments which helping pilots during taxiing, take off, landing and entire duration of flights. There are hundreds of highly sensitive sensors continuously measuring different conditions of the flight and atmospheric conditions outside flight.
Instrument Landing System – ILS
Instrument Landing System (ILS) often described as automated landing uses a system of complex computer programs and Radio frequency technology for accurate landing of an aircraft during any weather conditions. Manual calculation of these variables during bad weather is complicated task for pilots and always requires higher level of accuracy.
ILS calculates precise distance / height from the runway, approach speed based on the nature and weight of aircraft, weather conditions at the airport. Instrument Landing System sends radio beams to ground and receive the reflected signals from the ground to make accurate calculations of distance.
Altimeter is one of the significant equipment that gives accurate reading of flights altitude which is crucial for pilots to make spit second decision during landing. It provides accurate information about the height above the ground, terrane warnings and collision avoidance system.
Experts in the aviation industry raised concerns about the interference may occur due to closer C-band spectrum used in sub-6GHz spectrum used in earlier 5G deployments.
Radio Frequency Bands in 5G and airplane altimeter frequency
Airplane’s radio altimeters use the frequency range from 4.2GHz to 4.4 GHz for its operation. AT&T and Verizon’s recent 5G rollout used the frequency range from 3.7GHz to 3.98GHz which is closer (band gap of 200 nearly MHz) to the spectrum used in aviation.
5G experts believe that the band gap is sufficient to avoid interference and wireless coexistence is possible. However, it leads to an argument between aviation industry experts and 5G network operators over the use of C-band spectrum near airports.
What are possible ways to avoid interfering airline systems?
- Reduced power for transmitters near airport terminals. Network providers could install more number of low power base stations near to airport terminals.
- Placement of radio antenna arrays towards terminals without affecting ILS radio system. Radiation pattern of antenna has significance in transmission power and quality of signals in any wireless system.
- Another solution to avoid interference is to increase the band gap between 5G transmission and allocated spectrum for aviation. Since the aviation system has already been functional, future 5G spectrum allocation must be chosen properly.
For example France uses 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz spectrum which allows sufficient band gap between 5G networks and aviation equipment.
More detailed study is required for the coexistence of both technologies without compromising the quality of service and safety.
Can we get rid of 5G base stations from the airport terminals?
Network operators and aviation engineers will have to work on the solution for both technology to coexist. Airport terminals are one of the busiest public places where fast and reliable network is an inevitable part which keep us connected.
Moreover, service providers have to fully capitalize expensive spectrum they have purchased for 5G deployment.
Is it really safe to deploy 5G radio transmitters near to airport terminals?
At the moment, we do not have sufficient data to support the hypothesis from the aviation industry. However, network providers have agreed to delay their full deployment until they have confidence to rollout 5G without safety concerns.
FAA approved aircraft models to fly (low visibility approaches) near to 5G deployed terminals
- All Boeing 717, 737, 747, 757, 767, 777, 787
- MD-10/-11 jets
- All Airbus A300, A310, A319, A320, A330, A340, A350 and A380 models
- Some Embraer 170 and 190 regional jet
FAA and aviation authorities across the globe are monitoring the changes that could impact the safety in aviation.