Why pilots traveling to US are afraid of 5G?

Los Angeles International Airport. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia images. Photo by D Ramey Logan/Los Angeles

By Sanjay Kumar

NEW DELHI, Jan 24 – US telecom giants AT&T and Verizon have decided to delay the new 5G service rollout near major airports after the largest airlines in the US raised concerns that the service would interfere with aircraft technology and cause widespread flight disruptions.

The telecom giants have agreed to temporarily restrict 5G in a two-mile buffer zone around a number of large airports, which degrades speeds for users in those areas. For airlines, the biggest issue is how altimeters interact with automated systems.

The telecoms have also agreed to reduce the power of their networks near 50 airports for six months, similar to wireless restrictions in France. In exchange, The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Transportation Department promised not to further oppose the rollout of 5G C-Band.

US flights from a number of airlines including Emirates, Japan’s All Nippon Airways, Air India, Korean Air, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific, Austrian Airlines, and Germany’s Lufthansa were affected due to this issue on Wednesday.

However, the 5G issues for both airlines and the telecom major are still far from resolved.The present truce is temporary and the FAA will have to find a permanent solution to the issue.

Radio altimeters, which were developed in the 1920s and help pilots determine a jet’s altitude and its distance from other objects, use frequencies closer to the ones used by 5G services than earlier generations of cellular service.

Aviation experts have warned that 5G interference could have rare but catastrophic consequences for air travel, as some planes may not be able to land at airports near 5G towers.

The airline industry has been working on new standards for altimeters, but they are not scheduled to be released for review until October. The most likely solution is to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, or perhaps billions, to fix airplane altimeters and reprogram automatic flight systems.But the biggest question is who will pay? Whether Airlines or wireless carriers?