Airbus, Boeing CEOs Call For Delay In US 5G Service

The aviation industry continues to push back against 5G connectivity, after the CEO’s of Airbus and Boeing reportedly urged the delay of 5G services in the United States.

Airbus Americas CEO Jeffrey Knittel and Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun in a letter on Monday urged the Biden administration to delay the rollout 5G service next month.

According to CNN, both CEOs wrote a letter to US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to say the 5 January rollout could cause interference that could “adversely affect the ability of aircraft to safely operate.”

Aviation concerns

At the centre of their argument, is that 5G signals in the US could interfere with plane instruments such as radar altimeters. which measure the distance between aircraft and the ground.

These are used by pilots to make safe landings in low visibility conditions.

Last month aviation’s 5G concerns went public in a big way, when the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it shared the aviation industry’s ‘deep concern’ over the rule change that allows the commercial use of 5G C-band spectrum.

The FAA however is in a long-running dispute with another US agency, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which has said it does not believe 5G systems would interfere with flight equipment.

The FCC pointed out that other countries have studied using this C-band spectrum in wireless networks for more than 17 years, with no reports of any problems in the aviation space.

This and other evidence led the FCC in early 2020 to allow 5G operators to use the C-band, a range of radio frequencies between 3.7 and 4.2 gigahertz.

The FCC reviewed competing industry studies about the safety risks and said in a March 2020 order that “well-designed equipment should not ordinarily receive any significant interference (let alone harmful interference)”.

Despite this, the American aviation industry has been voicing its concern over the C-band plan for more than a year, and FAA deputy administrator Bradley Mims said in a 6 October letter that the FAA shares the industry’s “deep concern”.

The aerospace and airline sector met with the FCC in August, saying at the time that “major disruptions to use of the National Airspace System can be expected from the rollout of 5G” and adding that the technology could force the FAA to “drastically reduce aviation operational capacity”.

The CTIA, which represents network operators, said operators can use C-band spectrum “without causing harmful interference to aviation equipment”.

No evidence

Experts have noted that numerous 5G networks are already safely operating in the band in 40 countries, without a single report of 5G causing harmful interference with air traffic of any kind.

Indeed, experts state there does not seem to be any valid scientific or engineering basis to justify a 5G delay, and there is overwhelming evidence that 5G operates safely in the C-Band without causing harmful interference to air traffic.

The fact 5G signals in this C-band spectrum have been operating in many countries for some time – countries in which US airlines fly in and out of every day, means the aviation sector would have seen a problem long before now.

And the US already has an added a layer of protection called a guard band, that is hundreds of times greater than the separation that exists between wireless and other critical spectrum users.

CEO letter

But concerns persist and now the Airbus and Boeing CEOs according to CNN, said in the letter they have developed a new proposal to limit the power of 5G transmissions near airports, and asking the US administration to work with the Federal Communications Commission to adopt such a plan.

The impacts of allowing 5G to deploy, “are massive, and come at a time when our industry is still struggling from the Covid-19 pandemic,” the CEOs reportedly said.

The CEOs have urged Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to support postponing AT&T and Verizon’s deployment of C-Band spectrum 5G wireless.

In November, AT&T and Verizon delayed commercial launch of C-band wireless service by a month until 5 January and adopted precautionary measures to limit interference.

“5G interference could adversely affect the ability of aircraft to safely operate,” the letter reportedly said, adding it could have “an enormous negative impact on the aviation industry.”

The Boeing Airbus letter reportedly cited an analysis from trade group Airlines for America (A4A) that if the FAA 5G directive had been in effect in 2019, about 345,000 passenger flights and 5,400 cargo flights would have faced delays, diversions or cancellations.

Buttigieg’s office did not immediately comment, CNN reported.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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