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.
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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.”