The US aviation and telecommunications industries are waiting for regulators to assess whether the rollout of 5G poses a threat to the safety of aircraft.
Airlines for America, which represents American (ticker: AAL), Delta (DAL), FedEx (FDX), UPS (UPS) and others, last week filed a resolution with the Federal Communications Commission to halt 5G deployment in the US. An emergency petition was filed for
AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) announced Tuesday that they will delay the launch of next-generation wireless technology by two weeks following a request from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Verizon, at least, expects 5G to be operational by the end of the month.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Europe has 5G and air travel and cargo shipments continue safely. It hasn’t wreaked havoc for America, airlines warned.
Why the difference? There could be many factors at play, say experts baron’s,
One thing’s for sure: the green light for 5G in Europe doesn’t come from a lack of caution among regulators. After all, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) warned last month about the potential risk of interference from 5G near airports in the US.
EASA said at the time that “no risk of unsafe intervention in Europe has been identified.” Instead, the regulator cited the Federal Aviation Administration, which earlier this year saw specific risks in the US due to the implementation of potentially higher 5G ground station power emissions.
The source of greater vigilance in America may stem from the daring of radio technology.
The issue at hand is whether the signal from the 5G radio band – the instruments intended for – can interfere with aircraft altitude, which are critical devices that tell pilots the altitude of their aircraft. Radar altimeters are 5G’s close neighbors in the radio spectrum.
This potential problem is most pronounced upon landing when 5G stations on the ground are emitting close to an altimeter, or 5G smartphones are transmitting within the aircraft. This explains why regulators are focusing on the security impact around airports.
George Holmes, President and CEO of Resonant (RESN), a player in the 5G industry, told baron’s That the difference between the US and Europe stems from their proximity to the frequencies allocated for 5G and the bands defined for altimeters.
Resonant is a Nasdaq-listed company that designs radio frequency filters, which are used to isolate signals from the right band while blocking unwanted noise from elsewhere in the radio spectrum. These filters are important in 5G applications.
In the US, 5G is allocated for a range between 3.7GHz and 3.98GHz, which is closer to the 4.2GHz–4.4GHz frequency for altimeters than in Europe, which has set a 3.4GHz–3.8GHz range for 5G. has been allotted. Holmes said altimeter filters would be better at blocking 5G signals in Europe, resulting in less potential interference.
“We are dealing with a very small possibility but extremely disastrous consequences,” Holmes said. “We are still in the early stages of 5G deployment and use, so this interference problem remains a potential for the future.”
“In the long term, this highlights the need for high-performance filters for all the different technologies to coexist above 3GHz,” he said.
For its part, the CTIA—a trade group representing the U.S. wireless communications industry—underlines that nearly 40 countries already use 5G in an area of radio spectrum shared with altimeters. There is no impact on aviation.
The CTIA cited the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which considers the 200 MHz “guard band” to be sufficient to protect radar altimeters. When the FCC allocated space in the radio spectrum for 5G wireless services in early 2020, it left 220MHz of space between the bands for these services and the radar altimeter.
Different decisions between regulators in the EU and the US can also be a matter of politics.
Jonathan Atkin, managing director of RBC Capital Markets, specializing in telecommunications, said baron’s This difference may be mostly due to inter-agency dynamics within the US government which does not apply in Europe.
Write to Jack Denton at [email protected]