FAA and 5G carriers hatch plan to ensure safe flights

FAA and 5G carriers hatch plan to ensure safe flights


Stingrays mimic cell towers, and are used by both criminals and police.
The FAA worked out a deal that will let us stop talking about C-band 5G and airports.
Photo: Miguel Á. Padriñán/Pexels

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration worked out a compromise that will let AT&T and Verizon deploy their new C-band 5G near airports without it interfering with instruments on airplanes.

While that’s good news for iPhone users who want fast cellular-wireless access everywhere, the agreement also means that the new version of 5G still won‘t be offered very near airports.

C-band 5G rolling out across the US… but not airports

AT&T and Verizon began offering C-band 5G earlier in January. This version isn’t as fast as mmWave 5G but works over longer range. And every 5G iPhone can access it.

But the FAA asked wireless carriers to avoid airports as they started their rollouts because airlines are concerned the wavelengths used by this version of 5G will interfere with automated cockpit systems.

However, on Friday the FAA announced a compromise. An analysis was done to determine how C-band 5G signals interact with aircraft instruments. “The FAA used this data to determine that it is possible to safely and more precisely map the size and shape of the areas around airports where 5G signals are mitigated, shrinking the areas where wireless operators are deferring their antenna activations.”

Note that this only reduces the area near airports that AT&T and Verizon can not deploy C-band 5G, not eliminates it. That said, airports have already begun deploying mmWave 5G, which doesn’t interfere with airline instruments and is faster. But, as noted earlier, it’s short range.