• Wed. May 11th, 2022

What we know about the impact on travel, flights and more

Telecommunications giants AT&T and Verizon are ready to expand their 5G services, but the airlines want to prevent them from taking off completely for security reasons at some of the country’s airports.

The two telecommunications companies agreed on Tuesday to delay rolling out new wireless services within two miles of those airports.

It came after the CEOs of major airlines, as well as FedEx and UPS, on Monday called on the Biden administration, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation, to address concerns about activating new connections. 5G network near airports.

Airlines and shipping carriers have called for the rollout of 5G to be delayed to within 2 miles of certain airport runways “to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, the supply chain and the delivery of necessary medical supplies,” the airlines said in the letter to the FAA. , DOT, Federal Communications Commission and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese.

►CDC’s New COVID Migration Program: What this means for cruises

►Video game: Microsoft to buy Activision Blizzard, publisher of Call of Duty, for $68.7 billion

Why would airlines be concerned with 5G?

The airline industry is concerned that the band of spectrum AT&T and Verizon plan to use is close to that used by altimeters, which tell aircraft their height above the Earth. It comes as the two telecom giants start using the spectrum they spent tens of billions on last year.

The FCC in 2020 defined a spectrum buffer between the 5G band and the altimeter spectrum to address security concerns. But the FAA said last month that possible interference from new 5G transmitters could still prevent some pilots from using the instruments.

It came after AT&T and Verizon pushed back their launch of a planned rollout in early December and in November agreed to cut C-band signal power for six months.

Airlines for America letter to the Biden administration by Mike Snider on Scribd

How could 5G delay or divert my next flight?

Planes with older altimeters could be susceptible to interference from 5G signals, according to the airline industry. This means that pilots who cannot see landing or take-off – for example in fog or other weather conditions – could not rely on the instruments due to possible interference. This could result in flights being diverted, delayed or not taking off.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson have asked AT&T and Verizon to suspend the activation of new 5G towers near certain “priority airports” while the FAA investigates the matter further.

AT&T and Verizon have pointed out during ongoing round trips that several countries are using 5G frequencies near airports where planes with older altimeters operate.

In its statement on the postponement of 5G deployment near airports, AT&T said it “will continue to work with the aviation industry and the FAA to provide further information on our 5G deployment, as they do not didn’t use the two years they had to plan this deployment responsibly.”

Verizon also expressed frustration with the situation in its statement to “voluntarily limit our 5G network around airports.” The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and our nation’s airlines have been unable to fully resolve 5G navigation around airports, despite being safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries,” the report said. company statement.

As a result, travelers won’t have to worry about travel delays due to 5G.

However, some international airlines, including Air India and Emirates, have canceled some flights to the United States.

Why is this happening now?

AT&T and Verizon got the official green light to use some of the C-band radio waves they acquired at an FCC auction last year. At the time, Verizon spent $45 billion to access about 160 MHz of the 280 MHz of radio frequency spectrum made available, while AT&T spent $23 billion for 80 MHz.

Those C-band or midband frequencies that AT&T and Verizon want to start using are in a “sweet spot” of the spectrum, said Cenk Gursoy, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Syracuse University. Bandwidth covers long distances and provides wider coverage.

These so-called midrange frequencies are important for the performance of evolving 5G networks because they cover a larger area and provide more data than other frequencies. Think of it “like adding lanes to each of their wireless data highways,” USA TODAY columnist and TECHnalysis Research analyst Bob O’Donnell wrote at the time of the auction.

T-Mobile spent about $10 billion on about 30 MHz of spectrum at that auction, but it has already acquired spectrum through its purchase of Sprint, which became official in February 2020.

But AT&T and Verizon shouldn’t have to deal with that now, said Recon Analytics founder and analyst Roger Entner. “That should have been resolved.”

The FCC has required a “guard band” in the spectrum, a buffer that is twice the size originally requested by the airline industry, he said. Mobile providers won’t use all of their spectrum until the end of 2023, so in the meantime there’s an even wider gap between altimeter spectrum and 5G spectrum, Entner said. “How it can interfere with planes. It’s physically impossible,” he said.

Gursoy said he was “baffled as to why they didn’t resolve this issue sooner.”

He agrees that “security is an important consideration”, but says frequencies are already in use around airports in other countries.

Strand Consult, a UK-based telecommunications and media consultancy, said the US aviation industry hopes to get the mobile industry to shell out around $100 million to pay for altimeter upgrades.

It’s a tactic that Entner says is also his “creeping suspicion.”

Verizon had said its expanded 5G Ultra Wideband rollout, which was scheduled to begin Wednesday, would increase its phone coverage to 87 cities and 5G Home (in parts of 65 cities) to cover an additional 100 million customers by the end of the month. .

AT&T didn’t say how many cities would be immediately affected by its C-band expansion, but the provider originally expected to expand coverage of its faster 5G+ service by the end of 2022 to 200 million people. Overall, AT&T’s 5G network already covers 255 million people in the United States, according to the company.

What is 5G exactly?

5G networks, which mobile providers began rolling out in late 2018, promise faster connections that can deliver more data faster and provide always-on connectivity.

For example, 5G download speeds can approach over 300 megabits per second – with peak speeds reaching one gigabit per second. That’s about 10 times faster than 4G LTE cellular networks – in some locations.

Internet testing firm Ookla found that the fastest median mobile download speeds in the three-month period ending December 2021 of 187.12 Mbps came on T-Mobile’s 5G network. That’s up from 135.17 Mbps during the third quarter of 2021, the company said.

And 5G’s longer-lasting connections promise a connected ecosystem of devices like connected smart cars and smart homes, and services like telemedicine and mobile virtual reality and augmented reality.

C-band deployment is also important for AT&T and Verizon “because they need this spectrum to compete effectively with T-Mobile,” Entner said.

“It’s important for the industry and for supporting these emerging applications,” Gursoy said.

And as providers move more users to 5G networks, customers using older phones could also get better service, Gursoy said.

Contributor: Rob Pegoraro, The Associated Press

Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 5G and airports: What we know about the network’s impact on airlines and flights