Telecoms, FAA Reach Another 5G Deal


The FAA, Verizon and AT&T have reached yet another agreement aimed at preventing disruption at airports due to possible 5G interference. “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 telecoms had set July 5 to crank up the power on 5G C-Band wireless around airports after delaying the full rollout for six months while the aviation industry figured out how to deal with it. Nolen said the most recent deal supersedes the old agreement. “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.

Under the new deal, the telecoms offered to keep some of the measures to reduce 5G interference in place for another year. In that year, the FAA is mounting a major push to get operators of vulnerable aircraft to either replace those radar altimeters or install filters that lessen the risk of interference. Those filters are now becoming available and the FAA has set July of 2023 to get all the affected aircraft updated. It appears the FAA has accepted that timeline as the last extension. “After that time, the wireless companies expect to operate their networks in urban areas with minimal restrictions,” the agency statement said.

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. I remember back in the day where one couldn’t even use a cellphone in or around an aircraft due to interference. One would think that before implementing a new service or system, it would be throughly tested beforehand to insure that it would work without any issues. Now it’s up to the operator of a prior system to make sure that his equipment can still function? How about the other way around?

    • it was tested, very thoroughly. I was part of many of those tests. the problem is, and now thankfully the FAA has finally stepped up, decertifying or updating the much much older band pass filters that older RA’s use that allow interference.

  2. There is no mention of who is going to have to pay for the fixes, which leads me to believe that it is the aircraft owners who will have to fund the whole thing. Why not get AT&T and Verion to pay the tab, considering how much revenue they stand to make off of the network?

    • because the FAA has literally over the last decade declined to do anything but blame others.

      this is something they have dropped the ball on for the longest. allowing much older RF Receivers like RALT’s to stay certified even though their tolerance is much lower than after the FCC shifted a few band allocations around.

      Steve S. makes this very apparent, and as a fellow IT/RF Engineer myself who has been part of this process. FAA has FINALLY stepped up to do their part to work with the FCC on getting this fixed.

  3. Here is the problem Karrpilot and Jon Mc… The system is not in or around the plane, it’s at least for the moment, not even at the airport. A handheld unit puts out much lower power and I won’t bore everyone with what all that means from a math/physics point of view, but suffice it to say it’s very different. From an engineering point of view the fault is with the radar/radio altimeter not the cell phone system. There is plenty of guard band if the RA’s were designed properly to begin with. As an electrical engineer I have been in the communications sector for over 3 decades. If I did such a bad job of designing the front end for our devices it would’ve been caught by others and I’d have been likely fired. As I understand the history here, the RA’s were designed to meet the government’s requirements and there in lies the problem.

    As to who should pay, that’s certainly a debatable point. As I understand the history, the government created the specs, but if they pay it’s we the tax payers who pay. The RA makers did a horrible job but and while they could’ve done better than the requirements I suspect, there may have been good reasons to not rock the boat. I worked in defense for a while and there was usually incentive to just meet the requirements and not exceed them. The aircraft makers and airlines that installed them I suppose could’ve insisted on better but again, there may have been reasons to not risk attention from the regulators. Either way, the makers of the cell phone gear from the spectrum plots I’ve seen have done a good job of keeping their emissions where they need to and should be which is no where near the band used by the RA’s. It is the RA’s that didn’t filter properly. This is why as Russ’ article points out, an additional filter is an option in a lot of cases (can’t say for sure but likely all). That filter isn’t to prevent the cell phone emissions from getting in because they are not supposed to be there but is to keep the emissions that are where they should be from getting into the circuits well outside of the spectrum they should be looking at anyway.

    I don’t know what the answer is in terms of who should pay, but I do know from everything I’ve seen the cell phone companies are not to blame.

    • ^ ^ ^ THIS the older RA’s need to be updated/replaced/modified to tighten up their filters, this is all the FCC and the Telecom industry was asking for. there are thousands of older RA’s still in use that simply allow the interference to go uninhibited and causes this problem. updating those filters = problem mitigated.

      FCC and Telecom has been dumping out serious funding to fix this, but it is not the sole source of the problem, the FAA is also part of the problem and up until now, has literally denied and refused to do anything to help.

    • Keep in mind the tough demands on avionics for size, various performance characteristics, …

      Rather different than on a boat.

      Advancing technology may make RAs better, certainly some manufacturers claim that they have.

    • cell sites have near and recently always been near and even on airports, they stick the emitters right on the roofs of airport facilities in some cases. i see cell sites hanging off of roof sides at many airports on the properties or at least right next to them.

      • i know for a fact, KATL Has 5G UWB and low and midband Carriers right on the airport, and UWB uses ultra short ranges. that alone tells me that small cell sites are right on the property. I was just at KATL few weeks ago and my Note 20 was showing a MAXIMUM reception airport wide from the moment I walked in the doors at Terminal South to the time I stepped on the aircraft and sat down till doors closed which after I entered the aircraft, I did lose a single bar. the 5GUWB was faster than the WiFi coverage!

        Now, lowband and midband, these populate your traditional tower and segmented emitters with midband evolving into the small cell site cans.

      • Well of course, that is where many users are.

        But the question in this thread is frequency, power level, and aim of antenna.

        Look at the antennas you see – are they tilted down a bit? I think most are. And the coverage is split into quadrants with an antenna for each, some carriers use three some four.

  4. The government auctioned off this spectrum with full knowledge the problem existed. Each branch of the government stayed inside its own funnel beyond pointing fingers, or the optimal solution of including the cost of updating aircraft would have been rolled into the requirements for winning the spectrum.
    Regardless, I truly LOL at the other engineers here that would like to convince anyone that it should be straightforward and reasonable to make updates to ancient certified hardware just because it is ancient and non-efficient. I am sure it plays better on non-aviation websites though.