FAA Warns Broadband Could Pose Safety Threat to Airlines

Ken Zino of AutoInformed.com on Safety threat to Airlines from C-Band Wireless Broadband Use

Technology can cause problems. Consider social media helping the Republican led insurrection at the US Capital to overturn an election.

Today the Federal Aviation Administration issued a so-called Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) telling aircraft manufacturers, radio  altimeter manufacturers, operators and pilots of the planned deployment of 5G wireless broadband networks in the 3700-3980 MHz bands (C-Band).1 The FCC and its apparently careless regulations on high-speed internet, and corporate lobbyists for the telecommunications industry are the sources of the problem. Broadband is also being proposed by some automakers and suppliers as a way to wirelessly recharge electric vehicles.

Broadband deployment is currently underway and there is scarce data on it’s actually safety effects on flying. In short, your smartphone or someone else’s or the Verizon or AT&T cellphone tower (they own the frequencies that appear to be the most problematic with overlap interference) could kill you if it affects airline navigation, particularly in the safety critical instrument-approach-to-landing phase of flying. The device does not have to be in use on the plane. “There have not yet been proven reports of harmful interference due to wireless broadband operations internationally, although this issue is continuing to be studied,” said the FAA. See pilot Juan Browne on automatic landings in poor visibility click here.

The FAA now recommends that radio altimeter manufacturers, aircraft manufacturers, and operators voluntarily provide to federal authorities specific information related to altimeter design and functionality, specifics on deployment and usage of radio altimeters in aircraft, and that they test and assess their equipment in conjunction with federal authorities. Executive summary: passengers are part of an operational safety test while flying.

FAA Background Statement:

During the past 15 years, the 3 GHz band globally has been the subject of harmonization activity for mobile broadband, both at the International Telecommunication Union and within regional groups. A number of countries already have allocated and assigned spectrum for wireless deployments in the 3 GHz range and additional countries are following suit.

However, many countries around the world are already deploying wireless networks in the bands from 3300-4200 MHz; some countries have implemented temporary technical, regulatory and operational mitigations, including temporary proximity and power restrictions, on wireless broadband networks operating in bands ranging from 3700-4200 MHz.

There have not yet been proven reports of harmful interference due to wireless broadband operations internationally, although this issue is continuing to be studied. In the United States, there has been wireless broadband deployment in the 3.65-3.7 GHz band since 2007. The FCC started a proceeding to authorize mobile broadband service in the 3.55-3.7 GHz band in December 2012 and adopted final rules in April 2015 and October 2018. Commercial deployment started in September 2019, with no known issues for altimeters to date.

Regarding the 3.7-4.2 GHz, the FCC first sought comment on introducing mobile broadband into the band in 2017. In March 2018, the MOBILE NOW Act directed the FCC to evaluate the feasibility of commercial wireless deployments in the 3.7-4.2 GHz range. The FCC started a proceeding in May 2018 and adopted the C-band Report and Order authorizing flexible use of the 3.7-3.98 GHz band in March 2020. In February 2021, the FCC completed an auction of the 3.7–3.98 GHz frequency band and subsequently issued licenses to several wireless network providers subject to license conditions.

AutoInformed.com on:

1 FAA Footnote:

“C-Band wireless broadband deployment is permitted to occur in phases with the opportunity for operations in the lower 100 megahertz of the band (3.7-3.8 GHz) in 46 markets beginning as soon as December 5, 2021; however, the FAA does not expect actual deployment to commence until January 5, 2022.”

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4 Responses to FAA Warns Broadband Could Pose Safety Threat to Airlines

  1. Santa Claus says:

    December 23, 2021 Dear Administrator Dickson,

    Many thanks to the Federal Aviation Administration for once again granting special flight permission for my unique, direct air-cargo delivery operation to bring holiday joy to children of all ages across the United States on Dec. 24. The special launch license for my StarSleigh-1/Rudolph Rocket to take a quick trip to the International Space Station is also appreciated.

    My main purpose in writing is to join my voice with that of many others for the continual improvement of all facets of air travel safety. It is important to recognize who is doing the right thing and to call out bad behavior and point them to the lighted path to understand and follow the FAA’s safety rules. So here are my special FAA Safety Naughty and Nice Lists.

    On my Nice List are the air traffic controllers and technicians, pilots and flight attendants, gate agents, ground crews, airport personnel, security staff, airlines, commercial space operators and government agencies that manage, operate and provide safety oversight of the system. The system is safe and resilient due to their dedicated hard work. I have the utmost gratitude and respect for everyone who makes it their job to keep air travel safe. Air travelers who properly wear facemasks also belong on my Nice List. I’ll make sure all their holiday wishes are fulfilled.

    For those people whose bad behavior puts air travel safety in jeopardy, remember: I’m watching! At the top of my Naughty List are unruly passengers who pose a serious safety threat. People who purposefully point lasers at aircraft are on the list because they could incapacitate pilots, some of whom are flying airplanes with hundreds of passengers. In addition, pilots or aircraft owners who operate illegal charter operations pose a serious safety hazard as they do not have the proper training or maintain their aircraft at the required higher safety levels in order to fly the public.

    Most everyone involved in air travel are good people who care about their own safety and the safety of others. Please continue to follow crew instructions, be polite and enjoy the flight. For those on my Naughty List, I believe it is our duty to help them change their unsafe behaviors through safety programs, educational outreach and enforcement actions as warranted.

    I encourage you to share my Naughty and Nice Lists widely and let it be known that Santa Claus and the FAA are steadfast partners in air travel safety!

    Have a happy and safe holiday season!

    Santa Claus
    North Pole

  2. AT&T says:

    At Secretary Buttigieg’s request, we have voluntarily agreed to one additional two-week delay of our deployment of C-Band 5G services. We also remain committed to the six-month protection zone mitigations we outlined in our letter. We know aviation safety and 5G can co-exist and we are confident further collaboration and technical assessment will allay any issues. – AT&T statement January 03, 2022

  3. I want to thank Verizon and AT&T for agreeing to delay 5G deployment around key airports and to continue working with the Department of Transportation on safe 5G deployment at this limited set of locations. This agreement will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90 percent of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled. This agreement protects flight safety and allows aviation operations to continue without significant disruption and will bring more high-speed internet options to millions of Americans. Expanding 5G and promoting competition in internet service are critical priorities of mine, and tomorrow will be a massive step in the right direction. My team has been engaging non-stop with the wireless carriers, airlines, and aviation equipment manufacturers to chart a path forward for 5G deployment and aviation to safely co-exist – and, at my direction, they will continue to do so until we close the remaining gap and reach a permanent, workable solution around these key airports.

  4. Comment FAA on 5G Delay

    “Key stakeholders in the aviation and wireless industries have identified a series of steps that will continue to protect commercial air travel from disruption by 5G C-band interference while also enabling Verizon and AT&T to enhance service around certain airports.

    “We believe we have identified a path that will continue to enable aviation and 5G C-band wireless to safely co-exist,” said Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen. “We appreciate the willingness of Verizon and AT&T to continue this important and productive collaboration with the aviation industry.”

    “The phased approach requires operators of regional aircraft with radio altimeters most susceptible to interference to retrofit them with radio frequency filters by the end of 2022. This work has already begun and will continue on an expedited basis.

    “At the same time, the FAA worked with the wireless companies to identify airports around which their service can be enhanced with the least risk of disrupting flight schedules.

    “During initial negotiations in January, the wireless companies offered to keep mitigations in place until July 5, 2022, while they worked with the FAA to better understand the effects of 5G C-band signals on sensitive aviation instruments.

    “Based on progress achieved during a series of stakeholder roundtable meetings, the wireless companies offered Friday to continue with some level of voluntary mitigations for another year.
    “We all agreed when we began these meetings that our goal was to make July 5, 2022, just another date on the calendar, and this plan makes that possible,” Nolen said.

    “Airlines and other operators of aircraft equipped with the affected radio altimeters must install filters or other enhancements as soon as possible.

    “Filters and replacement units for the mainline commercial fleet should be available on a schedule that would permit the work to be largely completed by July 2023. After that time, the wireless companies expect to operate their networks in urban areas with minimal restrictions.

    “The radio-altimeter manufacturers have worked at an unprecedented pace with Embraer, Boeing, Airbus and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to develop and test filters and installation kits for these aircraft. Customers are receiving the first kits now. In most cases, the kits can be installed in a few hours at airline maintenance facilities.
    Throughout this process, the FAA will work with both industries to track the pace of the radio altimeter retrofits while also working with the wireless companies to relax mitigations around key airports in carefully considered phases.

    “The agency also will continue to engage with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Federal Communications Commission on technical issues associated with these efforts.”

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