Air travel chaos possible as US maintains 5G altimeter refit deadline

Despite fears of potential travel disruptions, the US government has declined to extend the deadline for airlines to install new sensors to prevent potential interference with 5G signals.

On Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that the deadline of July 1 for airlines to refit planes with new sensors to avoid possible 5G interference would not be postponed. However, airlines have cautioned that they may be unable to meet the deadline, which could result in some planes being grounded.

The C-Band is a part of the radio frequency spectrum in the US where 5G is being deployed, and telecom companies have previously postponed the rollout to enable airlines to make the necessary adjustments.

Aircraft altimeters, which measure the distance between a plane and the ground, could be affected by C-Band spectrum 5G wireless, according to concerns previously raised by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and aviation companies.

According to Reuters, during a call with airline companies on Tuesday, Mr Buttigieg urged them to speed up the retrofitting of their planes before the deadline.

Last year, concerns about 5G interference caused some disruptions at US airports. To allow airlines time to retrofit their altimeters, major tech companies such as Verizon and AT&T agreed to delay the rollout of 5G technology until 1 July 2023.

The IATA, a trade group for over 100 airlines flying in and out of the US, has warned that the recent decision not to extend the deadline for the altimeter refit makes travel disruptions during the summer more likely.

The IATA warned on Tuesday that supply chain issues make it unlikely that all planes will be retrofitted by the 1 July deadline, which could lead to operational disruptions during the peak northern summer travel season.

The IATA, representing over 100 airlines, estimates that the cost to upgrade planes is $638m (£511m). The organisation added that airlines are not to blame for the situation and are victims of poor government planning and coordination. Nick Careen from the IATA made this statement.

Phone companies have invested tens of billions of dollars in deploying 5G technology, which they claim provides faster internet services and better connectivity. However, airlines have requested that the approximately two miles of airport runways at affected airports, as defined by the FAA, be exempted from 5G signals.

According to 5G technology companies, the aviation industry is spreading unwarranted concerns and misrepresenting the facts regarding the safety of 5G. In the European Union, the networks function at frequencies that are lower than those in the US, thereby diminishing the likelihood of interference. Moreover, 5G masts can operate with lower power levels.

Some countries have implemented measures to minimize potential risks related to 5G. For instance, in France, “buffer zones” around airports restrict 5G signals, and antennas are tilted downwards to prevent possible interference.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has stated that there have been no confirmed cases of 5G interference causing problems with aircraft systems.

However, the authority has noted that varying national mobile communication strategies could result in different countries having varying levels of threat exposure.


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By Ryan

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