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5G Implementation on Hold for Two Weeks

January 06, 2022 –Two of the nation’s major telecom companies this week agreed to a two-week delay in the rollout of 5G wireless communications technologies in major metropolitan areas throughout the country, as aviation groups maintained that interference issues for radar altimeters had not yet been resolved. The 5G network implementation had been scheduled to go into effect on January 5.

Aviation groups, particularly those involved in commercial operations, have for three years stated great concerns regarding frequency interference from Verizon and AT&T 5G with the altimeters, which are used for instrument approaches and landings, especially in poor weather conditions and low visibility. Frequency interference from 5G could also be greatly detrimental to other emergency operations ranging from medical helicopters, law enforcement, to military aircraft.

Other nations, such as France and Canada, have already limited 5G implementation or power output around major airports. The FAA and U.S. Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, had pushed for the delay to further study the potential for hazards, while airline groups had threatened legal action if the safety concerns were not addressed.

In December, the FAA issued airworthiness directives that would impose flight restrictions in poor weather using location-specific NOTAMs in response to the 5G rollout. But no NOTAMs had been issued even as the January 5 rollout date approached. That created uncertainty among aviation users as to what the restrictions would be and further raised the threat of delayed or canceled commercial flights.

EAA has been one of the general aviation groups involved with the issue, as some GA pilots do use radar altimeters when flying instrument approaches and landings. EAA is also concerned with the lack of cooperation between federal agencies — in this case, the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission — and sale of frequency spectrum to the highest bidder, regardless of the possible consequences to aviation safety.

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