Risk of disruption to air travel during peak summer holidays as US refuses to change 5G switch | US News

Air travel could be disrupted during the peak summer holidays, according to airlines, after the US refused to change a deadline for adding new sensors to planes.

The sensors are to ensure that 5G wireless technology does not interfere with aircraft altimeters, which are instruments used to measure altitude, especially crucial for landings in bad weather.

Pete Buttigieg, the WE transportation secretary, said Tuesday that the Biden administration does not plan to give airlines more time to update altimeters.

Last year, technology companies Verizon and AT&T reached an agreement to delay the rollout of 5G technology until July 1, 2023 to allow airlines to update their altimeters.

The decision came after several previous delays.

However, last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also said it has no plans to extend the deadline before the new rules take effect.

What rules does the FAA propose?

Earlier this year, the FAA said it would propose requiring U.S. passenger aircraft to have 5G C-band-tolerant radio altimeters or install approved filters by early 2024.

The rules affect nearly 20,000 aircraft worldwide.

The proposed airworthiness directive requires airlines to review aircraft flight manuals to ban low visibility landings after 30 June, unless retrofits have been completed.

Airlines for America, a trade group representing American Airlines (AAL.O), Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), United Airlines (UAL.O) and others, said “carriers are working diligently to ensure that fleets are equipped with compliant radio altimeters, but global supply chains continue to lag behind current demand. Any government deadlines must take this reality into account.”

Risk of disruption to summer travel

On Tuesday, the International Air Transport Association – which represents more than 100 airlines flying in and out of the US – said more time is needed and many airlines will need to upgrade most of their planes twice in just five years.

It said: “Supply chain issues make it unlikely that all aircraft can be upgraded by the July 1 deadline, threatening operational disruption during the northern summer travel peak season.

“The airlines did not create this situation. They are victims of poor government planning and coordination.”

The upgrades could cost £511m, the association added.

The altimeter measures the height of an aircraft above a fixed level.  Photo: iStock
The altimeter measures the height of an aircraft above a fixed level. Photo: iStock

How does 5G affect planes and flights?

Last year, the FAA said it was working to ensure radio signals from 5G technologies can safely coexist with flight operations in the United States.

Concern that 5G service could interfere with aircraft altimeters has led to brief disruptions at some US airports as international carriers canceled some flights in 2022.

Following the outages, the federal aviation agency said, “Because the proposed 5G rollout involves a new combination of power levels, frequencies, proximity to flight operations and other factors, the FAA must impose restrictions on operations of flight using certain types of radio altimeter equipment near antennas in 5G networks.

“These safety restrictions could affect flight schedules and operations.

“The FAA continues to work every day to mitigate the effects of this disruption as we make progress to safely integrate 5G and aviation.”

Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen reiterated last week that the FAA has given airlines until July 1 of this year to retrofit.

He added that if the planes had not installed sensors by July 1, they would not be able to take advantage of the low visibility routes, which could result in detours for affected flights.

What is 5G?

5G is the latest version of mobile network technology. It simply means the ‘fifth generation’ of mobile networks and follows the previous versions, 3G and 4G.

Each new generation of technology has steadily changed the way we all access the internet on the go.

According to Ofcom, 5G enables faster browsing and “is much faster than previous generations of wireless technology”.

But it’s not just about speed.

5G also offers greater capacity, allowing thousands of devices to be connected simultaneously in a small area.

Read more from Sky News:
Is 5G Overrated?

5G signals interrupt flights in the United States

What is C-Band 5G and why is it important?

C-Band is part of the radio spectrum which allows for high speeds on a larger scale for mobile phones and the internet at home.

According to HighSpeedInternet.com, wireless companies use radio waves to ensure easy access to the Internet from your phone, and C-band is in the middle of the radio spectrum used for 5G networks.

Some benefits of 5G in C-band are faster speeds and longer ranges without requiring phone towers.

Which wireless operators have agreed to suspend the rollout of 5G?

Verizon (VZ.N) and AT&T (TN) had voluntarily agreed to delay usage of 5G C-band until July 1 while the airlines worked to update aircraft altimeters.

Four major networks in the United States have also agreed to some voluntary actions to address aviation safety concerns and enable full use of C-band wireless spectrum for 5G use.

The deal with Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile US and USCellular followed extensive discussions with the FAA, allowing the networks to ramp up power levels to get to full C-band utilization by July 1.

“We believe we have identified a path that will continue to enable the secure coexistence of aviation and 5G C-band wireless,” said Billy Nolen, interim administrator of the FAA.

“We appreciate Verizon and AT&T’s willingness to continue this important and productive partnership with the aviation industry.”

photo: AP
photo: AP

Has 5G already been implemented in the US?

According to tech site Lifewire, these are some of the networks in the United States that have rolled out 5G:

• AT&T
• TMobile/Sprint
• US Mobile
• Spire C
• Charter’s mobile spectrum
• Comcast/Xfinity
• Starry
• Google Fi and simple cell phone
• Wireless Nex-Tech
• US mobile
• New mobile
• Wireless cricket
• Visible
• Dish
• Mobile phone


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