5G interference worries Airbus and Boeing

On Tuesday, November 21st, 2021, leading plane manufacturers Boeing and Airbus expressed their concerns regarding the 5G networks’ potential interference with sensitive flight safety equipment.

The duo’s intervention adds pressure on US regulators in a protracted row pitting airlines and mobile phone companies over the roll-out of the fast yet controversial 5G mobile broadband technology in the United States of America.

They say that joint and concerted efforts are underway to evaluate and establish the extent to which 5G signals could tamper with the flight equipment.

In a co-signed letter to the US transport secretary, Pete Buttigieg, the Boeing chief executive, David Calhoun, and the Airbus Americas boss Jeff Knittel detailed the US aviation stakeholders’ mutual concern over implementing the 5G networks in the United States.

In a statement to the AFP news agency, an Airbus spokesperson said,

“Boeing and Airbus have been working closely with all the US aviation industry players to understand better how the 5G mobile broadband technology interferes with radio altimeters.”

In a separate statement, Boeing added that the aviation industry is keen on thoroughly assessing and resolving the potential 5G clash with radio altimeters.

“We are working together with aviation authorities, airlines, industry groups, and government leaders to ensure that aviation systems guarantee aircraft safety around the world” they said.

Giant telecom operators AT&T and Verizon were scheduled to launch their 3.7-3.8 GHz frequency bands on December 5th, 2021, after acquiring multi-billion dollar licenses in February.

However, the launch was postponed in November following intervention by the aviation industry’s regulator. The body expressed its concerns and fears over the 5G signal’s potential interference with the aeroplane’s altimeters.

On its part, the Federal Aviation Administration (The largest transportation agency of the US government) has asked for more information about aircraft gadgets that can leverage similar frequencies as 5G.

At the same time, the Federal Aviation Administration has developed directives that seek to limit the application of radio altimeters in specific situations. Apparently, this move has caused fears among airlines over the possible costs.

In November, AT&T and Verizon wrote to the Federal Communication Commission declaring their plans to roll out 5G networks in January 2022.

So far, the 5G network providers maintain that the upgrade is safe, and, airlines together with all other potential users, have nothing to fear or worry about.

However, they pledged to take additional cautionary measures, at least, until July 2022 as the Federal Aviation Administration completes its investigations.

In February 2021, the French authorities recommended switching off 5G mobiles phones on planes owing to the raging conflict between aircraft software and 5G networks.

The French civil aviation authority took action, saying that interference from a frequency signal to the altimeter (whether similar or stronger in power) would lead to fatal errors during landing.

Flight disruptions are looming even as airlines struggle back to their feet after the ravaging coronavirus pandemic that led to losses in billions of dollars last year.

Airline carriers are still contending with staff shortages and unruly passenger episodes meaning the industry is least prepared to shoulder the 5G clash, which might cost over 2.1 billion dollars in flight disruptions.

Accordingly, more aviation officials and airline executives are adding their voices to these concerns warning of massive flight delays in blizzards, poor visibility, cancellations, and diversions once the new 5G wireless service launches in January 2022.

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