5G buffer zones to be installed at 50 US airports: Federal Aviation Administration

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta January 8, 2022
Updated 2022/01/08 at 7:00 AM

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Friday released a list of 50 US airports that will have buffer zones when mobile operators activate the new 5G C-band service on Jan. 19.

AT&T and Verizon agreed on Monday on buffer zones around 50 airports to reduce the risk of disruption from potential interference to sensitive aircraft instruments such as altimeters. They also agreed to delay deployment for two weeks, avoiding an aviation security impasse.

The list includes airports in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia and Seattle.

The FAA said that doesn’t “needlessly” mean that low-visibility flights can’t take place at airports that aren’t in the 50s.

AT&T and Verizon, which won nearly the entire C-band spectrum in an $80 billion (approximately Rs. 5,93,850 crore) auction last year, declined to comment.

On Thursday, the FAA renewed warnings that despite the agreement, 5G wireless service could still interrupt flights, saying that “even with the temporary buffer around 50 airports, the rollout of 5G will increase the risk of interruption during low visibility”, including “flight cancellations, diverted flights, and delays during periods of low visibility.”

Some major airports, such as Denver, Atlanta and Ronald Reagan Washington National, are not on the list because 5G is not yet being deployed, while others are not on the list because “the 5G towers are far enough away that there is a natural buffer.”

Other airports not currently listed do not have the capability to allow low-visibility landings, the FAA said. The company said the delay would allow it to evaluate ways to minimize disruptions and also give companies more time to prepare.

“If there is a possibility of risk to the flying public, we are obliged to pause the activity until we can prove it is safe,” said the FAA.

ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke, who heads the association representing US and Canadian airports, said on Friday that the FAA list “is largely irrelevant because the entire aviation system is about to be negatively impacted by this poorly planned and coordinated expansion of the 5G service. in and around airports.” He said that “the so-called fix will create winners and losers within the airport community, and the entire aviation system will suffer under the terms of this agreement.”

Airlines for America, a trading group representing US passenger and cargo carriers, said it appreciates “the FAA’s efforts to implement mitigations for airports that may be most impacted by disruptions generated by the rollout of the new 5G service.”

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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