Mixed Signals: Airlines Warn 5G Interference Would Cause Catastrophic Disruption - The Scene

Leading airlines in the United States don’t want 5G anywhere near airports.

Chief executives of major carriers in the United States are asking the government to address 5G interference with the national aviation system.

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“We are writing with urgency to request that 5G be implemented everywhere in the country except within the approximate 2 miles of airport runways at affected airports,” read the January 17 letter organized by Airlines for America (A4A), the trade association for the country’s leading passenger and cargo airlines.

It was addressed to National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Stephen Dickson, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

“Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain, and delivery of needed medical supplies,” wrote the leaders of Alaska Air Group, American Airlines, Atlas Air Worldwide, Delta Air Lines, FedEx Express, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines Holdings, UPS Airlines, and A4A.

The appeal comes days before the deployment of 5G C-band technology by leading telecommunications firms Verizon and AT&T. This has been delayed twice already due to warnings from airlines that 5G could interfere with plane devices used to measure altitude.

5G, which means the fifth generation of mobile communications, promises faster data rates with lower latency. Coverage areas can access data speeds up to 100 times faster than prevalent 4G technology, reaching gigabits per second.

To scale, 5G technology would allow a user to download a feature-length movie in seconds or a television series in under a minute.

“Despite safety concerns raised by the aviation sector, the Federal Communications Commission authorized telecom companies to use 5G spectrum that is adjacent to frequencies utilized by aircraft equipment known as radio altimeters,” A4A posted on its website.

Due to the risk of interference, the FAA is preparing to put in place safety restrictions criticized as “highly disruptive to airline passengers and the shipping public.”

The said restrictions, according to A4A, could annually affect 345,000 passenger flights, 5,400 cargo flights, 32 million passengers, and millions of people who depend on timely air cargo shipments.

Moreover, it would cost $1.59 billion per year in disruption costs for passengers (lost time, productivity, wages).

The affected airlines said they are willing to find a mutually beneficial solution with the government and mobile wireless providers but maintained that “immediate action is necessary to provide ample time for those discussions to move forward in a meaningful way.”

“Given the short time frame and the exigency of this completely avoidable economic calamity, we respectfully request you support and take whatever action necessary to ensure that 5G is deployed except when towers are too close to airport runways until the FAA can determine how that can be safely accomplished without catastrophic disruption,” they wrote.

Photo by Kevin Woblick on Unsplash

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