5G signals pose challenges for US airlines: Here’s why | Simplified

Aviation groups in the United States are worried about flight disruptions and possible disasters because of 5G signal interference with aircraft systems. Wireless carriers are going to activate these signals near 50 busy airports after a postponement deal brokered by the Biden government ends on Saturday.

Explaining impact of 5G service on airplanes.

How can 5G signals cause flight disruptions?

5G signals may lead to electromagnetic interference causing the aircraft’s system to fetch unreliable data. Specifically, the issue is more prominent with altimeters that are used to measure altitude and help during low-visibility landings.

Why there is a risk of electromagnetic interference?

Wireless carriers including Verizon and AT and T use a part of the radio spectrum called C-Band (3,700 MHz and 3,980 MHz frequencies) for their new 5G service, which is close to frequencies used by radio altimeters (4,200 MHz – 4,400 MHz).

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Too technical? Understand with a simple example

Imagine being at a music concert with different instruments such as a guitar, a piano, and a trumpet being played. Each instrument has its own unique sound, and they play in specific frequency ranges. It’s like each instrument has its own designated lane to travel to our ears.

When each instrument plays within its lane, you can clearly hear each sound and the music sounds harmonious! But if one instrument starts playing in a frequency range too close to another instrument, its sounds can overlap and create a confusing noise. It becomes hard to distinguish each instrument’s sound.

Similarly, 5G signals transmitted in a frequency band too close to the one used by aircraft instruments can disrupt the signals and cause problems during flights.

What is the solution?

Airlines have been asked to have retrofitted altimeters that protect against radio interference. However, many airlines have yet to upgrade their altimeters because the supplier has been unable to provide them fast enough.

“More than 80 per cent of the US fleet had been retrofitted, but a significant number of planes, including many operated by foreign airlines, have not been upgraded,” US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.

Airlines say the issue is manageable

Delta Air Lines, which still lacks upgraded altimeters, says it does not expect to cancel any flights because of the issue.

To minimise the chances of flight cancellations or diversions due to poor visibility caused by fog or low clouds, the airline intends to strategically plan the routing of its 190 planes.

(Inputs from AP)

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