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5G rollout has airlines sound the alarm on "catastrophic" aviation crisis

Jan. 18, 2022 5:48 AM ETAT&T Inc. (T), VZ, TMUSBA, FDX, UPS, JBLU, LUV, ALK, HA, DAL, AAWW, UAL, AALBy: Yoel Minkoff, SA News Editor238 Comments

Aerial view 5G cellular communications tower

xijian/E+ via Getty Images

  • Do 5G signals affect aircraft equipment? The answer to that question is dividing the telecom and aviation industries, and many consumers are set to get stuck in the middle. At issue are altimeters, or devices that use radio frequencies

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Comments (238)

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Just curious, how much does it cost to retrofit another altimeter that operates in another frequency band? Isn't this the obvious fix?
The irony might be that we don't need 5G as much as all the hype around it suggests. Yeah, faster mobile data helps, but maybe the Internet of things (every damn device connected to the Matrix) and unlimited, broadband mobile connectivity are less important than society needing time to heal, relearn socialization and civilized behavior, address violent crime, return to common sense and RRR education, reject propaganda and demagoguery, stop worshipping athletes and celebrities (bread and circuses), sideline lawyers and politicians, and avoid the fate of previous corrupt, debauched and over-extended empires.
I guess the Gov. will have to reimburse the money paid to them in spectrum sales.
MR. TRANQUILITTI profile picture
T-Mobile's 5G is not affecting airports as well.


23 Jan. 2022
There’s a new little talked about wrinkle that has been added to this problem, the FAA mantained that all medevac helicopters be fitted with radio altimeters. This was supposedly done after the all the work had been done after 5G equipment allocation and beta testing. Because they are used in rural areas where 5G operates at full power, they will require equipment modification and/or power limitations.
In US there is 200 mHz buffer between 5G and airline radio altimeters. In Europe the buffer is 600 mHz. FAA has had a years long battle with FCC over this. FCC didn’t listen. leehamnews.com/...
This is all about MONEY - aviation industry (hurting due to COVID) wants to pick the pocket of a comparatively flush industry (wireless telecoms) to upgrade the former’s infrastructure. Wouldn’t be surprising to find China behind this controversy as well to delay US technological advance. Pushing FEAR over science.
@Tawm How exactly is the Aviation Industry making money from this?
@naybor33 very simple - they need to upgrade radar altimeters and other cockpit equipment to ensure sufficient SELECTIVITY to only receive the radar frequencies, and reject adjacent ones like 5G. Retrofits are costly.
@Tawm So simple - Wonder why Boeing didn't think of that.
MR. TRANQUILITTI profile picture
I'm surprised T-Mobile hasn't popped on this as their 5G is not near airports..............
Real007 profile picture
Fundamental frequency interference is definitely a problem with impacted data from the radar altimeter entering into an aircraft's controls systems, even thrust reversers, but there's also a problem with harmonics (2nd and beyond frequencies).
SPEND your money. Write a WILL profile picture
Why don't we fly a couple of predator drones around these airports and see if they fall out of the sky?

One sure way to test this absurdity around 5G!
waterlogger profile picture
As usual a solution is at hand if only government had the stones to make decisions.
The FAA could easily proclaim all aircraft owners are responsible for the frequency sensitivity of their altimeters.

Simple bandwidth tests certifing compliance of existing equipment could be required to eliminate other sources as a possible failure.

The FCC took the money for C band auctions and now is responsible for providing licenced use of legitimate frequencies to those who bought the C band for commercial use.

To claim one side has gamed the system is just more politics.

Time to dig in by federal agencys' to do their jobs.

If old altimeters are the problem, enforce replacement requirements. Stop jamming another agencys' use of the spectrum to extract a toll or compensate agrieved parties.

Every cell phone owner, airplane, cell phone service provider, avionics mfg, and crash site victim is also an agrieved party.
The only ones not agrieved are lawyers yet they will see the most reward in all of this.

The FED created this. They should clean it up.
If older aircraft avionics is inadequate for legitimate service, flight limits in future use or flight conditions are a possible solution.
A continued use at your own risk and liability clause would end commercial use of noncertified equipment.
There always will be private users who abuse the rules.
There are now it won't change.

If this is stated and enforced it would be amazing how quickly old equipment was replaced.

We used to paint in houses with lead paint.
We used to take trains to get from here to there.
Walked or rode horses before automobiles.

Some things do change.
Government stupidity seems perpetual.

Your comment is missing a LOT of information such as the fact that US based 5g transmission operates at 2x the power of Euro, the antenna angles etc.

Worse, the problems have been known for some time and the FAA/Federal government made no serious attempt to address them. You're right this is government failure.

Article here discusses some of this: news.yahoo.com/...

The bandwidth is smallest part of the issue.

Fastest/easiest fix is delaying 5g rollout in the US. Just don't turn it on and let the planes fly till a solution is settled upon.

You're spot on.

As I posted on January 18......

<><><><><><><><><>Included Text<><><><><><><><><>

There’s a full 220 MHz of separation between the spectrum used by the radio altimeters which starts at 4200MHz and the new 5G C band spectrum that ends at 3980MHz, which is far more than necessary and sufficient to mitigate the possibility of any co-channel interference.

The problem is, not every aircraft has a modern radar altimeter and as things stand now, it’s not clear how many faulty altimeters are out there, how they’ll respond to a flood of 5G traffic and need to be replaced.

The ideal solution would be for the FAA to launch some kind of industry-wide effort to find and replace all of the obsolete aircraft altimeters, by the airlines.

<><><><><><><>End of Included Text<><><><><><><>

The FAA on Monday said it had cleared operations for two radio altimeter models found on some Boeing 737, 747, 757, 767, MD-10/-11 and Airbus A310, A319, A320, A321, A330 and A350 models. Those cleared aircraft account for about 45% of the U.S. airline fleet. Notably missing from the FAA’s list are the 777 and 787.
waterlogger profile picture

Good additional info!!
This is what's needed. More people looking into operating parameters to make a reasonable compromise decisions.
Transmission signal strength can overwhelm a receiver's filtering ability to separate near channel interference.
The use and direction of antennas their gain characteristics and installation all important parts of the puzzle.
Another commentor says Monday the FAA cleared about 45% of Boeing and Airbus aircraft.

All of a sudden it starts happening.
Less drama, more solutions. All good.

Need to know how big the foot print at the end of the runways are where 5g is to be "limited".

What compensation do those in the no 5g zone earn for their unfortunate existence in our version of radio free America?

Things like no autonomous EV traffic due to signal loss?
Banking and commerce server free zones to reduce trade in major US cities?

Most important no more streaming "Friends" reruns from Netflix?

These activities have an intrinsic value and cost in many facets of our economy and society.

The FAA oversight needs it's own oversight to insure the rest of America still has use of FCC allowed enjoyment of available technologies.

Not saying if it works in Europe we should adapt to all things Europe.
Reasons have differences and need to be openly vetted.
We live here, not there.
Solutions need to work for us, not them.

Thanks @serndipity for FAA update.
sourdo profile picture
Nothing like waiting till the last minute before calling out 5G. The FAA is run by fools. WTF?? Catastrophe? Really? Wait till the last days before turning on 5G and then have a hissy fit? Talk about being late to the party.

This whole debacle is beyond stupid.

Now you are beginning to understand how the govt really works, lol.
@sourdo this is actually a debacle created by the FCC and the FAA. Never should have reached this point. The concerns by the airlines and others affected have been known for quite some time.
Verizon and ATT should require Boeing / FAA / U.S. Government to lease the C band spectrum near airports for a period of time and an amount agreeable to both.

Why is Verizon and ATT required to bear the financial burden for the FAA' s poor governance and Boeing's sloppy engineering?
@CJB123 how is this Boeing sloppy engineering? This affects Airbus too and ALL other plane manufacturers. The avionics equipment for planes is not made my BA, Airbus or other manufacturers. This is sloppy work by the US Government whose responsibility it is to monitor and regulate so these things don’t happen. This is 100% and FCC and FAA screw up.
flumeride profile picture
@dontbelieveit Boeing and Airbus should select newer , better altimeters. Clearly the newer models don’t have problems. That is his they are being sloppy. Boeing and Airbus should have been well aware of 5g C-band.
@flumeride BA and Airbus newer models are affected. Read more. The airlines and their equipment have been around alot longer than 5G. This is a problem created by the FCC. In Europe the buffer between 5G and airline radio altimeters is 600 mHZ. In the US it is 200 mHZ. Starting to get the picture? FCC ignored what was done in Europe AND didn’t listen to airlines AND did not listen to the FAA. The US Transportation Sec has now asked big telecom to delay their rollout of 5G near airports. So it is an issue created by the FCC. The FCC created this mess all on it’s own.
MR. TRANQUILITTI profile picture
5G is the future of telecom worldwide and too important.

Safety wIll be addressed.

It looks like TMOBILE's 2.5 Band spectrum just got even more valuable.
MR. TRANQUILITTI profile picture
Why isn't TMobile mentioned do they use a different kind of spectrum?
Tim Dunn profile picture
all of the big 3 cell coms are currently using 5G that does NOT involve the frequencies that are risky to aviation - which is why there is no reason to not take the time to get this right. the bands that are a risk to aviation are part of the auctions that the cell coms bid on and won - so there is value to them if they can't use them. But it is completely inaccurate that 5G won't happen if deployment of the bands at issue here are slowed down.
@Tim Dunn Except the C band is NOT risky to aviation, its a shakedown, nothing more. The spectrum is so far away from altimeters its a Joke. Anyone who knows spectrum knows this, The C band spectrum was cleared on either side with guard band to prevent intereference at a hefty cost as well. this is nonsense.
Tim Dunn profile picture
you are free to believe that but when Boeing sends out advisories to 777 and 787 operators re: the use of their aircraft in 5G areas near airports, their guidance and not yours matters.
Tim Dunn profile picture
looks like T and VZ have agreed not to turn on C band 5G near some US airports on Wed.
there is no company that is willing to be responsible for the delay or cancellation of flights, or let alone a safety incident involving an aircraft.
MR. TRANQUILITTI profile picture
@Tim Dunn Why doesn't this affect TMOBILE is it because they use a different band?
1) Because no widely utilized commercial airplanes are equipped with air brakes. Perhaps you mean spoilers or speedbrakes?

2) Because radio altimeters are not utilized to deploy reverse thrust on any transport category aircraft I'm aware of. RA does not play a roll in activating any of the devices you probably are referring to in point 1; it's usually a function of "weight on wheel logic," that senses compression of landing gear struts (shock absorbers, if you will). BTW, reverse thrust probably sounds pretty effective to most folks in the passenger cabin, but it is not as impactful as many assume. In fact, reverse receives zero credit for decelerating the aircraft in respect to calculating runway requirements. It can save brake wear and diminish brake heat, so it's practical and useful, but it's not required.
To all those saying, "How come this wasn't raised until now"... it has been. Just because AT&T commercials and mainstream media say that 5G is here, it hasn't been here. Concerns from the aviation industry as well as other industries regarding the spectrums have been raised for years. I've gotten some interesting responses to some of my other comments on Seeking Alpha on this issue, but I can't say I didn't tell ya so.
@Blunder Boy FCC vetted this a long time ago, with no issues, Intelsat vetted this for years with no issues, Europeans etc vetted this for years with no issues. The guardband is very significant here, its a last minute ploy by the Airlines to get $$ from Uncle Biden.
18 Jan. 2022
@Blunder Boy The IEEE should have been consulted before these frequencies were even selected! I’d like to know, if not why not and what was the IEEE recommendation, if there was one? It’s not like we don’t have the technology or equipment to do spectrum analysis at these frequencies!
flumeride profile picture
@Blunder Boy I have heard lots of people claim 5g is dangerous and can cause brain damage. The problem is that most of those people already have brain damage.
Dont fly. Not concerned. Of course dont want a plane falling on my head. . . . Airlines knew this was coming, they waited until last minute to say anything. Not to mention the no accidents in Europe via 5G.
Which company is bigger? Telecoms or airlines? At least you dont have some schmuck flighting on telecoms because they dont want to wear a mask. And we all know that is freedom and liberty restricting. According to the dark side.
@Drumboy the airlines didn’t wait until the last minute. This has been going on for years.
FAA is a Federal agency (government workers) and very slow to respond to anything. We were building an office building (already in the master plan) next to an airport and had to get final FAA approval (it met the pre-existing height restrictions, etc)...it took ~10yrs. They only asked to add an antenna to the roof and an easement...

I would ask for a partial refund or damages in negotiations. Then see how they respond...

I heard Biden is getting "involved", that will solve everything immediately!

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