May 24, 2022

In the United States, telephone operators will not launch 5G near certain airports

The launch of 5G in the United States remains scheduled for this Wednesday, January 19, but not around all airports. The two operators AT&T and Verizon announced on Tuesday that they agreed not to activate their relays around certain airports. Obviously, it is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA, the American aviation regulator) that will indicate the risk areas.

Phone giants respond to airlines, which have threatened to cancel thousands of flights. They ensure that the deployment of 5G can disrupt certain on-board instruments essential for certain landings: radio altimeters, which measure the distance between an aircraft and the ground or the surface of the water. They are particularly crucial during the landing phase in poor visibility, and use the frequency band which goes from 4.2 gigahertz (GHz) to 4.4 GHz. However, AT&T and Verizon are preparing to use a very similar band in the United States for the benefit of their 5G networks (between 3.7 GHz and 3.98 GHz).

The two operators, who have spent nearly 80 billion dollars (around 70 billion euros) to buy the precious frequencies at auction in 2021, are furious. They had already postponed the entry into service of 5G by a month, then by another fifteen days. The FAA and the companies “have not been able to solve the problem of 5G around airports even though it has been deployed in a safe and effective way in more than forty other countries”, Verizon charged in a statement.

Read also Mobile telephony: 5G could disrupt air traffic

In early January, the FAA unveiled an initial list of American airports at risk from 5G, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Detroit, Dallas, Philadelphia, Seattle and Miami. Atlanta airport, the first in the country, was not threatened. The airport association was alarmed: “More than 100 airports and heliports in 46 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas will be unable to use their low visibility approach procedures due to possible radio interference. » On Sunday January 16, the FAA finally approved low visibility landings at 48 of the 88 airports potentially affected by 5G, estimating that there would be no disruptions.

“Incalculable” cascading effects

This was insufficient for the airlines, which the next day addressed, with the carriers FedEx and UPS, a plea to the White House: “Immediate intervention is required to avoid significant disruption to passenger traffic, freight, production lines and drug deliveries,” write the airline bosses, estimating that if nothing was done, around 1,100 daily flights would be canceled or delayed, affecting some 100,000 passengers. The bosses of the companies, which have been unable to return to normal operational traffic since the start of the pandemic, judged that the cascading effects could be « incalculable » and could drive “the country’s trade to paralysis”.

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