A number of international airlines have recently canceled flights to certain US airports due to concerns that the introduction 5G technology for mobile communications could cause interference with certain aircraft’s equipment.
Following warnings about the possibility of a issue from aviation officials along with officials from the Federal Aviation Administration, telecommunications companies AT&T and Verizon have stayed off activating certain 5G masts in US airports.
However, how can 5G affect planes? Can the issue be resolved? Let’s have a look.
Presently being used in many nations around the world 5G is the fifth technological advancement in mobile phones. It is expected to offer speeds that are 100 times more efficient than the speeds we’ve seen with 4G.
To guarantee high-speed speeds and the most coverage possible, AT&T and Verizon had in mind to create 5G internet by using C-band frequencies. This is a form of radio frequency (or radio waves) in the range of 3.7 to 3.98 gigahertz (GHz).
They are also the frequencies utilized by modern aircrafts for measuring altitude. A crucial piece of aircraft’s equipment is called an altimeter radio, operates using C-band frequencies that range from 4.2-4.4GHz.
Pilots depend on radio altimeters to land their plane in a safe manner, especially in situations where visibility isn’t great such as in the case of an airport bordered by high mountains or conditions are unclear.
The issue is that because of the small gap in frequency between 5G and radio altimeters signals from 5G towers located near airports may create interference. This means that people who use 5G devices on their phones could accidentally distort or harm any radio frequency altimeters’ signal.
If this occurs even for just a few seconds, it could indicate that the pilot didn’t get the right information at the time of landing. This is why it is why the US Federal Aviation Administration raised concerns.
So , what can we do?
Other countries that have 5G are using frequencies in the C-band that closely resemble those of radio altimeters without reports of problems. For instance in the UK 5G speeds up to 4 GHz. There aren’t any mountains in the vicinity of airports lowers the chance of being hacked.
Certain other countries operate 5G with an additional frequency from the frequency of aircraft equipment. For instance, in the European Union, for example 5G is available upwards to 3.8GHz. This is an excellent alternative in US airports.
The most effective alternative over the long haul is to choose an even higher band for 5G. This could be between 24 and 47 GHz. In these frequencies, the speeds of data are considerably higher, however your coverage of every cell is significantly smaller (so you will require additional towers).
It is also possible to lower the signal strength of airport towers as has been tried within France as well as Canada. It’s not about altering the frequency of the signal – it will be determined in decibels not by GHz, however, limiting the power of the signal could reduce the risk of interference from neighbouring bands.
Another option is to alter the range of frequency for radio altimeters. However, this could take some time and could consume a lot of resources in the aerospace industry.
Although the chance of having an incident occurring during flight due to interference from 5G could be extremely low, given that we’re talking about safety for humans and security, we must take all possible risks seriously.
The decision to hold off the introduction of 5G masts near US airports is an excellent alternative while authorities figure out the best route to take.
Sufian Yousef is the Principal lecturer, Director of Telecommunications Engineering Research Group, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Anglia Ruskin University.