Air India on Wednesday cancelled eight flights to the US amidst the deployment of 5G technology across several airports in North America. Along with Air India, several other international airlines such as Boeing 777, Dubai-based Emirates, Japan’s All Nippon Airways, and American Airlines, also cancelled their flight operations to the US for the next two weeks. The development comes as the telecom operators such as AT&T and Verizon and the airlines are at loggerheads with each other over the rollout of new 5G technology in the US.
What is the dispute about?
The telecom operators in the USA are trying to roll out 5G technology for the past few months. They initially planned to launch the 5G services in December last year but postponed it to January 2022, amidst concerns by several airline operators and airports that the technology would impact aviation services. On January 3, they postponed it for another two weeks, until January 18.
Notably, both AT&T and Verizon have spent $64 billion for procuring C-band licenses to upgrade and roll out 5G technology. The 5G technology stands as the fifth generation of cellular network technology that would enable users to provide faster services such as downloading any movie within seconds.
The technology is already rolled out in 40 countries, without the disruption of aviation services. AT&T and Verizon were trying to do the same, however, the US airline industry is concerned that the C-band in the 5G technology might hamper the airline operations. On Monday, they wrote to the Biden administration to intervene on the matter, in order to avoid a potential aviation crisis.
Following this, AT&T and Verizon agreed to delay turning on the 5G towers within a 2-mile radius of the airport runaways, as proposed by the airline industry but said that they will launch the 5G technology on Wednesday.
Concerns amongst American Airline Operators regarding 5G Technology
Though the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Telecom Operators have assured that 5G technology would not impact the airline operations, the airline industry is concerned about the effect of 5G technology’s C-Band on the airlines’ altimeters and cockpit operations. The C-Band is a radio frequency band between 3.7 GHz and 4.2 GHz, which delivers services in lightning-fast speed and with wider coverage.
According to the airline industry, C-Band is also used by several aircraft radio altimeters. Altimeters measure the distance between an aircraft and the land and are used by pilots during low-visibility conditions and emergency landings, in all types of aviation services including that of cargo ships. The airline industry is concerned that the C-Band of 5G technology will hamper the low-visibility during flight operations.
The solution to the problem
According to Forbes, several countries where 5G was rolled out has used lower power levels around airports. The same was also pointed out by the FAA. In its statement, the association has said that they are reviewing the options for mitigating the interference from 5G technology in airlines operations while adding that it will also prioritize airports and review information regarding the buffer zone around critical airports.