As airlines modernise and adapt during this difficult time, they have one more area to worry about: 5G. According to CNN, the controversial rollout of 5G networks is causing problems to the U.S. aviation industry.

It has been described as causing a bit of a mess with the aviation industry as transport regulators are worried about it interfering with key equipment that is needed to land planes if there is bad weather. However, the telecoms regulators say that there is nothing to fear.

5G Disruptions

The consequences of the dispute between telecoms and aviation regulators have led to disruption in the U.S. with major international airlines having to change flights. Emirates, Air India Al Nippon Airlines, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa and British Airways announced changes to their flights. This disruption is happening in the midst of a difficult negotiation between regulators, telecom giants and airlines flying past a deadline to reach a settlement.

The news isn’t too good for mobile 5G users either. According to CNN, U.S. mobile internet services providers AT&T and Verizon are now delaying further their plans to switch on their 5G antennas at certain airports due to the controversy.

Emirates 5g controversy
Emirates announced changes to its flights due to disputes between telecom and aviation regulators. | © Emirates

The Problem with 5G

So where is the controversy with 5G? As we know, 5G has supplanted 4G as the latest form of internet connection. It provides faster broadband and eases the ability to download information from the internet thereby allowing more rapid access to information and data.  To do this, it relies on greater use of radio signals.

According to the BBC, in the U.S., the radio frequencies being used for 5G are in a part of the spectrum known as the C-band. These frequencies are close to those used by radio altimeters used on aeroplanes, which measure the height of the aircraft above the ground and also provide data for safety and navigation systems. The concerns are that interaction with 5G transmissions can cause safety problems as the activity of radio altimeters is interfered with causing problems for planes landing.

How Has 5G Fared Elsewhere?

Is there anywhere that seems to have got it right in the installation of 5G networks? According to CNN, Europe appears to have conducted the work better in this regard. 5G networks are being rolled out in Europe without any complaints from the regulators.

The problem and controversy lie with the US. According to CNN, it appears that there 5G networks paid the U.S. government 81 billion dollars so that they could access the C Spectrum for their radio frequencies. In Europe however, 5G networks have to use slightly slower frequencies which are lower than the C-band. In a way, therefore, Europe has compromised on the speed of the internet provided by 5G, in order to maintain safety standards.

Individual countries in Europe are also taking further steps to ensure the safety of aircraft. Some countries are restricting the placement of 5G antennas near airfields. In France for example, the height of a 5G antenna and the power of its signal determines how close it is allowed to be to a runway and the flight path of an aircraft. The antenna is also expected to be tilted away from flight paths to minimise the risk of interference. So not only are European nations ensuring that the basic measures are being adhered to, but they are also taking additional measures to keep people safe.

British Airways 5g
British Airways has cancelled some flights to the US amidst disruption. | © Andrea Ongaro / Travel Radar

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the discussions rage on resulting in a bitter and controversial public dispute involving the federal regulators as well as the telecom and aviation companies. British Airways, Lufthansa and Emirates have cancelled flights to the U.S. citing the issue as the discussions continue. Hopefully, as more negotiation takes place a better solution will arise in the US that is mutually acceptable and also prioritises passenger safety in the same way as in Europe.

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