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Frequency Allocation a Growing Concern for Aviation

March 18, 2021 – Recent concerns expressed by GA groups over jamming of essential GPS signals for the purpose of military exercises and testing spotlights a growing set of issues surrounding how radio frequency spectrum is controlled to maintain aviation safety, according to EAA's advocacy team.

AOPA and NBAA last week focused on intentional military jamming of GPS signals as part of training exercises over broad regions of airspace, but aviation groups have also been regularly alarmed by the increasing handover of frequency spectrum to commercial interests without regard for aviation safety.

"This is undoubtedly an aviation safety matter," said Sean Elliott, EAA's vice president of advocacy and safety. "The sale of frequency bands by the Federal Communications Commission, over the objections of aviation users and even the Pentagon, shows how essential inter-agency cooperation is missing right now."

Telecommunications firms spent approximately $81 billion dollars in the FCC's latest frequency auction, intending to use that piece of the spectrum for development of 5G infrastructure. EAA, other aviation groups, and the Department of Defense had objected to the sale, noting that 5G interference with aircraft radar altimeters could lead to catastrophic safety outcomes. Prior to that, similar reallocation of other frequency ranges from satellite to terrestrial uses threatened to interfere with the reliability and accuracy of GPS signals.

"While consumer demand, including from aviation, is pushing for 5G technology, that very same technology, if improperly implemented, could create serious safety problems for aviation," Elliott said. "The FAA must show leadership in maintaining control of frequencies essential to aviation safety and FCC needs to heed concerns of other government agencies and industry stakeholders, and not simply turn frequency spectrums over to the highest bidders, most of whom do not have transportation safety as an objective."

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