NBAA has joined a large coalition of industry groups calling for greater collaboration between industry and regulatory stakeholders to identify methods to mitigate potential interference from new 5G telecommunications networks operating on “C-band” frequencies adjacent to those used by radar altimeters installed on many civil aircraft, including business aircraft.
An October 2020 RTCA study warned of “a major risk that 5G telecommunications systems in the 3.7- to 3.98-GHz band will cause harmful interference to radar altimeters on all types of civil aircraft – including commercial transport airplanes.” Despite those findings, and resulting concerns expressed by aviation groups, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the rollout of those networks two months later.
“High-speed telecommunications networks offer great benefits, but those cannot come at the expense of aviation safety.”
Heidi Williams Director of Air Traffic Services and Infrastructure, NBAA
With deployment of the 5G networks initially targeted for December 2021, NBAA joined with 20 other aviation organizations in sending a letter to National Economic Council Deputy Director Bharat Ramamurti, reiterating the importance of cooperation between telecom providers and aviation interests to arrive at an equitable solution.
“We are committed to doing our part by working diligently to develop new standards, equipment, and aircraft/helicopter integration solutions,” reads the coalition letter. “However, these solutions require more detailed knowledge of the C-Band deployment and will take significant time to ensure they meet the FAA’s robust safety requirements. Aviation will not be able to maintain the current level of public safety and economic activity without support from the Biden-Harris Administration and the implementation of mitigations by the cellular industry,” the letter continued.
That action followed an ex parte letter submitted by the coalition, urging the FCC to address industry concerns over its approval of the new 5G networks. The FAA subsequently issued a special airworthiness information bulletin cautioning manufacturers and operators of the possible hazardous effects to radar altimeter accuracy from those signals.
The FAA later joined with the FCC in pledging to “continue to coordinate closely to ensure that the United States keeps pace with the rest of the world in deploying next-generation communications technologies safely and without undue delay.” Verizon and AT&T subsequently delayed the rollout of their 5G networks until early 2022.
“NBAA is continuing to work with regulators and our industry partners to identify workable solutions for all parties, including the telecommunications providers seeking to implement high-speed mobile data networks,” said Heidi Williams, NBAA’s director of air traffic services and infrastructure. “High-speed telecommunications networks offer great benefits, but those cannot come at the expense of aviation safety.”
The FAA has issued two ADs to address the risk of radar altimeter interference from 5G networks.
The FCC has approved 5G telecom networks utilizing bandwidth adjacent to frequencies used by radar altimeters and potentially leading to interference with their safe operation.
NBAA joined a broad coalition of aviation stakeholders encouraging the FCC to revisit its approvals of these networks and to work with the FAA and the industry to mitigate the interference risk. Two major providers have since delayed the planned rollout of their 5G networks.