The imminent deployment of high-speed 5G telecommunications services in the United States (US) led to the suspension of several flights to the country on 18 and 19 January. Concerns that interference from 5G transmissions could undermine safety and navigation systems prompted prominent airlines to suspend a multitude of flights.
Emirates, Air India, Japan Airlines, and All Nippon Airways canceled flights to New York, New Jersey, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Seattle, among other US cities.
The rollout was due to start on 19 January, after two previous delays, but ten leading US airlines issued a statement saying the new technology could result in thousands of flights to be delayed.
“The harm that will result from deployment on 19 January is substantially worse than we originally anticipated,” warned Airlines for America, an industry lobby group, pointing to the potential for 5G services to interfere with the sensitive equipment that aircraft use to take off and land.
Governments in other countries have successfully designed policies to ensure the safe deployment of 5G technology and we’re simply asking the US government to do the same.said United Airlines in a statement
5G relies on greater use of radio signals. In the US, the radio frequencies being used for this technology are in part of the spectrum known as C-Band.
Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have previously and repeatedly voiced concerns about C-band 5G, calling on the potential risk of disrupting airplane instruments, namely radio altimeters.
In the joint statement by the airlines, including the air freight carriers of the biggest logistic groups, UPS and FedEx, US President Joe Biden is asked to forbid the deployment of 5G to towers located within 2 miles (3.2km) of airport facilities.
CTIA, the US wireless industry group, has maintained 5G is safe and accused the aviation industry of fearmongering and distorting facts.
2. EU telecoms strategy
However, in their joint statement, airlines noted that 5G has been implemented in other countries while respecting safety concerns and they ask US authorities to follow the same fashion.
The difference in the US lies on the higher power level of frequencies, increasing the risk of interference. In the EU, networks are operating at lower frequencies. In France, for example, there are “buffer zones” around airports where 5G signals are restricted and antennas are tilted downwards to prevent interference.
“Governments in other countries have successfully designed policies to ensure the safe deployment of 5G technology and we’re simply asking the US government to do the same,” said United Airlines in a statement. “We implore the Biden administration to act quickly and apply the same common sense solutions here that have clearly worked so well around the world.”
United said Washington’s 5G rollout plan would have “a devastating impact”, affecting an estimated 1.25 million of its passengers and 15,000 flights a year while disrupting an already fragile supply chain.