Canada Puts The Brakes On 5G Cellular Networks Around Airports


Canadian authorities have led the way in protecting aviation navigation and communications networks from possible interference due to 5G wireless phone networks. Much to the consternation of cellphone aficionados, and especially 5G network providers in the country, the Canadian government has proposed restrictions on the high-speed cell service in the vicinity of large airports. The restrictions would consist of exclusion zones around runways, where 5G base stations would not be permitted. There would be additional lesser-protected areas where 5G services would be restricted.

As in the U.S., Canadian telecom firms acquired licenses over the summer for the use of spectrum frequencies that aviation stakeholders fear could compromise the accuracy of critical aviation signals. In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auctioned the spectrum frequencies for some $81 billion. Virtually all aviation advocacy groups, aircraft manufacturers, and some telecommunications experts have asked the FAA to explore the safety risk before enabling the 5G frequencies.

Sean Elliott, vice president of advocacy and safety for the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), said, “The precedent set in Canada supports the arguments of the aviation community, and even governmental entities such as the Department of Defense, regarding the potential safety implications of 5G interference to aviation. We have been urging FAA to be more involved regarding this matter because of these very real safety concerns.”

According to EAA, the White House is getting involved. The FAA has scheduled a technical meeting involving aviation groups and a coalition of industry stakeholders. There will also be “high-level interagency meetings,” said EAA, throughout the government and with the Biden Administration in hopes of arriving at a unified government response to concerns over safety.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Geezzz. Wondering whose going to come out the winner from those White House “high-level interagency meetings”? The FAA has no backbone or strength against corporations. Just ask the drone industry.

  2. AS how these typically go, the legislators will smell money and the %g companies will start with election donations, then the inter agencies will come together and decide the cell phone is too important to impoverished people who depend on the high speed data network, so the aviation community will have to purchase and install equipment to keep the GPS signals form being interfered with. If you want to fly, pilots are rich anyway they can afford it.

    • That line of thinking may work until an airliner full of children makes a smoking hole into a school or other residential area because of interference with the GPS signals need during a 200ft and 1/2 mile approach into a major airport.

  3. As an ATC type through the years, I had heard of the possibility of ILS interference created by other nearby transmitters. Never though anything about it. Then my last assignment, BNA, we upped our 2R ILS to Cat IIIB category. SWA was the first then to be certified to use it. The permitted weather for the approach was down to near WOXOF conditions. From the tower, aircraft using that approach were not visible to us at all, frequently until on the runway, and if foggy not even then. One day a SWA Capt. called the tower and wanted to know what was the deal with our 2R ILS. He said he shot the approach, Cat III, to near zero conditions, and as the aircraft touched it was aligned too far to the right of the runway. He said his aircraft showed no alarms for it. We referred it to our technicians. Much investigation later it was determined that an FM radio station had gone on the air not far from the airport, without us getting FCC notification first. It was determined that their FM transmitting frequency did indeed conflict with our 2R ILS frequency enough to cause misalignment interference. We, FAA insisted that they go off the air immediately. They said screw you. We had to NOTAM the ILS unusable. Higher authority jumped in to negotiated the situation. The conclusion was for BNA and Smyrna, Smyrna airport a little further down the road, to swap whatever is required to swap their respective ILS frequencies. And the radio station negotiated that they would pay for the cost involved. Several weeks later, we were back on with our 2R ILS. So, it can happen.

    • That’s why Europe was so keen on LAAS – local augmentation for GPS – very ultra low minima approaches.

      Apparently strong FM stations already existed near runways with ILS systems.

      But it requires a lashup to get VHF broadcast of corrections into avionics.

      (LAAS has ground-fixed receivers to calculate corrections to GPS signals, and IIRC provides some monitoring.
      Path data is encoded at very high integrity in the broadcast.)

  4. Should be noted that it isn’t really proper to call it “5g interference”, as if it were 5g itself that is the problem. The problem is with the argument that frequency spectrum is so valuable we cannot afford to “waste” any of it by preserving the GPS guard-bands.

    Cell services (including the various 5g flavors) utilize a multitude of frequency segments, most of which offer no problem to GPS reception; cell services including 5g can & do co-exist nicely with both airports and GPS in general as long as proper consideration is given to the frequency segments they are assigned.