Tuesday, January 18, 2022
5G C-Band Network Update
By now, most of you have probably heard about the impending launch of 5G by two major telecommunications companies, and the potential impact it could have on airline operations. Those telecommunications companies have since agreed to delay implementation at some airports. While this is a step in the right direction, the fact that the delay came the night before implementation means that we could still experience some operational disruptions over the next several days.
- What is 5G?
- AT&T and Verizon are launching a new, faster level of service known as 5G C-band. The 5G network itself has been in use for a while.
- Why does it matter to aviation?
- The 5G C-band operates at a frequency very close to that of the radio altimeters used on aircraft.
- How does this impact me?
- The 5G C-band network operates near the same frequencies used by radio altimeters. Since the radio altimeter is the instrument used to determine an aircraft’s altitude above terrain, any interference could cause the radio altimeter to read an incorrect altitude.
- Out of an abundance of caution, the FAA has placed restrictions on certain aircraft functions that could be negatively impacted by the 5G frequencies. It is important to note that the restrictions vary by aircraft type and configuration, and are specific to individual airports. A restriction on a 737 operating out of MIA might be different than the restriction on an A321S operating out of PHX.
- What is being done to prevent interference?
- The telecom companies have agreed to a six-month period during which they will limit the power levels of the 5G towers. They also have agreed to include 50 high priority airports in a list of exclusion zones, thus preventing operations at those airports from receiving 5G interference.
- The FAA is working to approve AMOCs (Alternative Methods of Compliance) for individual aircraft types that would allow those aircraft to safely operate in the presence of 5G.
- As of the afternoon of January 18th, the telecommunications companies launching the 5G C-band network have agreed to delay implementation near some airports until concerns can be fully addressed.
- How does this impact Flight Attendants?
- Right now, we are unsure of the exact operational impact, and more delays and cancellations could occur. We will pass on more information as soon as it becomes available.
APFA National Safety & Security Chair