(TargetLiberty.org) – Telecom providers who initially sought to roll out 5G technology on January 5 will now have to wait. Both Verizon and AT&T collectively agreed to delay the implementation process by two weeks in response to concerns broadening access to the 5G might interfere with flight safety. But are these fears even founded, and if so, what’s the fix?
The US government first began auctioning off access to the C-band — the area of the wireless spectrum that falls within the 3.7 to 3.98 GHz range — in early 2021. At the time, experts hoped the more powerful 5G network would empower faster data transmission while lowering latency and improving overall network capacity.
Tech company Intel claims the 5G network is capable of transmitting data at a rate nearly 100 times faster than its weaker 4G predecessor. For consumers, it means downloading and uploading larger amounts of information, such as high-definition images or videos, in far less time with fewer problems along the way.
Evidence also supports the idea 5G may better cope with oversaturation — a quickly-growing phenomenon that occurs when multiple devices compete for space on the same area of the network. It’s a significant boon in a world where virtually every tech toy now features some kind of internet connection.
Airlines Expressed Concerns
While tech moguls and consumers alike looked forward to a national 5G rollout, aerospace experts weren’t as thrilled. They immediately began sharing concerns about how widening access to the C-band might interfere with scanning technology found on airplanes.
The problem stems from the fact most airplanes use radar altimeters, which operate on the 4.2 to 4.4 GHz area of the spectrum, which is slightly higher than the proposed 5G network range. Pilots use the information from these devices to determine ground proximity, prevent crashes, avoid harmful wind shear, and even lower the risk of crashes while in the air.
Experts fear the close nature of these two network ranges, and the dramatic potential increase in load on the commercialized C-band, might interfere with radar altimeter readings. That means pilots could literally be “flying blind” when it matters most.
FAA Statement Outlines Issues
A January 3 statement from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expresses additional concerns about the potential for flight disruptions as a result of 5G implementation. It draws attention to the fact that, while other countries have successfully integrated the technology, most have also enacted measures beforehand to ensure flight safety.
The FAA wants industry leaders and the US government to collaborate on potential fixes. Its first recommendation is shifting the commercial 5G network to a lower frequency: 3.4 to 3.7 GHz, rather than 3.7 to 3.98. While only a couple of percentage points off, this area of the spectrum is allegedly far less likely to cause interference.
A second statement from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA administrator Steve Dickson seems to reiterate this call for cooperation. It proposes a list of voluntary measures aimed at reducing potential flight safety issues and disruptions, including the implementation of exclusion zones around at least 50 high-traffic airports.
As for whether this delay will last, the same letter from Buttigieg suggests the spectrum shift isn’t likely to happen. In fact, it specifically vows not to hold back full implementation as long as telecom providers agree not to begin the process until at least January 19.
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