FAA declares 5G buffer zones for 50 airports
10 / 01 / 2022
By Rebecca Jeffrey
5G buffer zones will be implemented at 50 US airports. Photo: Shutterstock
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released a list of 50 airports that will have buffer zones when wireless companies turn on new 5G C-band service on January 19.
This follows a decision by US telecommunications firms Verizon and AT&T to delay the deployment of certain 5G mobile networks over concerns from aviation that they could affect flight safety. US aviation groups previously warned that deployment of certain 5G mobile networks could result in delays to flights and cargo.
Verizon and AT&T agreed to turn off transmitters and make other adjustments near these airports for six months to minimise potential 5G interference with sensitive aircraft instruments used in low-visibility landings.
The FAA sought input from the aviation community over where the proposed buffer zones would help reduce the risk of disruption. Traffic volume, the number of low-visibility days and geographic location factored into the selection.
The FAA said many airports are not currently affected by the new 5G deployment. These include airports not in the 46 markets where the new service will be deployed and airports that do not currently have the ability to allow low-visibility landings.
In the US, 5G services will use frequencies in a radio spectrum called the C-band. These frequencies can be close to those used by radar altimeters, an important piece of safety equipment in aircraft. To make sure that this does not lead to hazardous interference, the FAA requires that radar altimeters are accurate and reliable.
Meanwhile, the FAA is working with airlines and manufacturers to assess how radar altimeters will perform in the 5G C-band environment. As tests prove that some altimeters are safe, the FAA will be able to remove some restrictions on operations of aircraft with those altimeters. Disruption risk will gradually decrease as more altimeters are tested and either deemed safe, retrofitted or replaced.