5G Concerns Fizzle With Uneventful July 1 Power Boost


It would appear concerns over 5G interference with radio altimeters have faded away. The deadline for telecom providers to crank up the power on 5G antennas near airports came and went on July 1 and the widespread disruptions and cancellations forecast by some did not appear to materialize. Only Delta responded to lightreading.com when asked for comment on the deadline. “We expect minimal operational impact,” the airline said in an email response. At the request of the FAA, telecoms agreed to reduce power from 5G transmitters near airports until July 1 to allow time for 5G retrofits or replacements.

The non-event passed just a couple of weeks after Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg fretted that 5G presented “a real risk of delays or cancellations.” Most airlines have completed 5G-resistant retrofits on their fleets although Delta still has about 20 percent of its planes to upgrade. That the deadline passed in summer is helping to minimize the impact since it’s only a problem in low-visibility landings. Delta said it would schedule its noncompliant planes for fair-weather destinations when possible to avoid delays and cancellations.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. What a load of rubbish, this is fake news by those who have no idea about 5G. Australia has operated 5G and carried out normal flight operations since its start of 5G operation. As good old USA has just experienced the mod to aircraft to accommodate was an expense that seems unnecessary and at a dollar cost wasted as well as aircraft grounded for the mod. Wasted time and money by everyone involved.

    • My understanding is that it’s only the US that now allows for full-power 5G transmitters near major airports.

      And it’s not “fake news” at all. It is a fact that 5G operates on frequencies very close to that of radar altimeters, and it is just physics that transmitters don’t transmit only on the desired frequencies. There are frequency spill-overs that occur, and older radalts that were built with the then-true assumption that there were no adjacent frequencies in use very much could experience interference issues.

    • The C-band (3GPP band n77) as used in the US saw 5G usage as high up as 3.980GHz whereas the majority of other countries stop at 3.8GHz (3GPP band n78). Hence in other markets the guardband between C-Band use for 5G and RA between 4.2G to 4.4G is a generous 400MHz and only 220MHz in US. The concerns about the inefficient blocking on RA’s resulted in very cautious approaches to avoid inbound inference from ground base stations into the RA. Tx power limitations were implemented close to airports. However in Japan 5G used as high as 4.1G without interference into RA’s.

  2. The point is, the testing and retrofitting should have been conducted BEFORE the rollout, not years after.

  3. I usually appreciate your work Russ but this is not very strong reporting. Without addressing the politics of how we got here or whether the restrictions are warranted, the important point that Russ has missed is that the restrictions are very real. In the plane I fly, the July 1 disabled our ability to use any ILS approaches below Category 1 minimums. On July 3rd our destination airport was right at the Cat 1 minimums. We landed uneventfully, so Russ says, total non-event, right? But if the visibility/RVR had dropped another 200 feet, every single flight in our aircraft type would have cancelled or diverted. So yes, the rollout was uneventful, and it will continue to be, until a hub airport or busy region like the Northeast US gets socked in below 1/2 mile visibility. Then, the mayhem will be unmistakable. Thankfully these conditions are rare, but when they arrive, I don’t think anyone will call it a fizzle. The 5G restrictions only become extreme when they are also coupled with extremely low weather- the two have to come together. I would expect a non-aviation news source to miss the mark on this kind of nuance, but here where we know a thing or two about airplanes, we can expect better.

    • I’m sure it sucks that your airplane is caught in the restrictions but as we pointed out in the story most have been upgraded or retrofitted and I’m guessing yours will be also. We also noted that the deadline came in summer when the weather is much less likely to trigger the restrictions. If you go back over our coverage of this we were one of the first to report it and we’ve covered it from every angle possible. Hope you get your new gear soon:)

  4. Aviation systems working with 5G came way before telephone companies. Airlines never had any issue. Interference is happening now and for some magic wand moves the airlines are the ones that have to change their systems to accommodate the use of 5G. Only in America! LOL

    • Not sure what is implied with “Aviation systems working with 5G came way before telephone companies”. The 3.5GHz allocation for 5G (bands n78 and n79) was part of 3GPP Release 15 which was only frozen in 2019. RA’s did not have to contend with 5G prior to this date. The main issue with RA’s is that the out of band Rx and Tx have a very shallow rolloff and may be Rx sensitive to tower transmission on the upper end of the channels used for 5G. This is unfortunately a systemic problem on RA’s which have designs based on dated (but time-tested) electronic designs.

  5. You’re quite right, Mr. Gary Baluha, as Mr. Bertus (in [email protected]) is exactly right, at least in the first two periods of his comment. And, btw, I can help but agree with the words of Mr. Lewis M.
    To resume, this matter is not at all a load of rubbish.

  6. Even aside from the technical merits (or possible lack thereof) regarding the interference, the FAA’s handling of their own published restrictions has been atrocious. They published airworthiness directives the week before the deadline, and they didn’t provide the clarification AMOC letters until less than 48 hours before the drop-dead. Then (because they rushed to get it done “in time) they were publishing revisions and corrections to their own material through the holiday weekend.

    The management of the situation has been a far bigger disaster than the 5G signals.