How 5G Wireless Service Puts Airplanes at Risk – An Electrical Engineer Explains


The FAA has expressed concern that the new full-speed 5G mobile phone service near the airport may interfere with aircraft operations.

The new high-speed mobile phone service raises concerns about interference with aircraft operations, especially as the aircraft is landing at the airport.Federal Aviation Administration Guaranteed to Americans that most commercial aircraft are safeAnd AT & T and Verizon have agreed Postpone the installation of their new cell phone antenna 6 months near the airport. However, the problem has not been completely resolved.

Concerns are raised by the U.S. government Can be auctioned Part of C band spectrum Become a wireless operator for US $ 81 billion in 2021.Carrier uses C-band spectrum Providing 5G Serving at full speed, it’s 10 times faster than 4G networks.

The C-band spectrum is close to the frequencies used in the major electronics that aircraft rely on to land safely. That’s why this is a problem.

Keep the spectrum in order

Radio signals are carried by radio waves. The radio spectrum ranges from 3 Hz to 3,000 GHz and is part of the electromagnetic spectrum.The part of the radio spectrum that carries the signal from your cell phone or other wireless device 20 kHz to 300 GHz..

If two radio signals in the same area use the same frequency, garbled noise will occur. This is heard when you are in the middle of two radio stations that transmit information using the same or similar frequency bands. The signal may be garbled and you may hear one station or another. All of this is mixed with a healthy amount of noise.

Therefore, in the United States, the use of these frequency bands is strictly regulated by the Federal Communications Commission so that radio stations, carriers, and other organizations are assigned “lanes” or frequency spectra for orderly use. It has become.

Bounce radio waves from the ground

Modern airplanes use altimeters. The altimeter calculates the time it takes for a signal to bounce off the ground and determine the altitude of an airplane. These altimeters are an important part of an automatic landing system that is especially useful in poor visibility.

Helicopter aircraft altimeter

The aircraft’s radio altimeter tells the pilot how far the aircraft is from the ground.

Therefore, if the altimeter interprets the signal from the radio operator as a rebound signal from the ground, it considers the ground to be closer and attempts to lower the landing gear early to perform other operations necessary for landing. There is likely to be. aircraft. If the altimeter’s radio signal is damaged and garbled due to interference with the radio carrier signal, the altimeter may not be able to recognize the rebound signal and may not know how close the plane is to the ground.

The parts of the radio frequency spectrum used by airplanes and mobile operators are different. The problem is that the altimeter of an airplane uses the range of 4.2 to 4.4 GHz, while the C-band spectrum of recently sold (previously unused) wireless carriers is in the range of 3.7 to 3.98 GHz. about it. The 0.22 GHz difference between the signals may not be enough to be completely certain that the cell phone carrier signal will not be mistaken or corrupted for the altimeter signal.

Avoid trouble – for now

For the telecommunications industry, a gap of 0.22 GHz is sufficient, No interference..The aviation industry More carefully.. Even if the risk is very small, I think the impact of an airplane crash is enormous.

Wireless mobile phone service antenna

Full-speed 5G signals, such as the services currently deployed by wireless operators, can interfere with aircraft altimeters.

Who is right? The likelihood of such interference is very low, but the truth is that there is not much data to say that such interference never occurs. The presence or absence of interference depends on the altimeter receiver and its sensitivity. In my view, there is no way to guarantee that such drifting interference signals will not reach the altimeter.

If the altimeter registers stray signals as noise and can be filtered out, they can function properly.Aircraft altimeter upgrade It ’s a costly proposal.However, it is not clear who will pay the cost.

FAA is an altimeter Clear what you can trust In the near future. AT & T and Verizon have agreed not to install 5G transmitters and receivers near the 50 largest airports for 6 months while the solution is being considered. This has avoided a major crisis in the short term, but it is not a permanent solution.

In addition, local airlines and regional airports There is a risk of interference..

Written by Prasenjit Mitra, Professor of Information Science and Technology, Pennsylvania State.

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