Aviation Advocates Ask FCC to Permanently Limit 5G Around Airports

Some airline industry groups are asking the US Federal Communications Commission to permanently restrict some 5G signals around airports.

Verizon and AT&T are currently not broadcasting C-band 5G in areas around US airports until July 2023 as part of an agreement with the FCC. The tentative agreement is intended to give airlines time to make sure 5G signals won’t interfere with aircraft equipment — specifically a part called a radar altimeter — during landings in rough weather. But aviation advocacy groups, including the Aerospace Industry Association and Airlines for America, have met with the FCC to discuss making some restrictions permanent, as Light Reading previously reported.

The restrictions, outlined in an official report, would shift some responsibility back to telcos by, for example, preventing 5G antennas from pointing 90 degrees above the horizon. They would also make permanent the current ban on certain C-band signal transmissions (especially in the 4200 MHz to 4400 MHz frequency range).

The proposed solutions “do not appear to compromise real-world wireless carrier use cases, while further ensuring aviation safety and providing a functional RF environment against which future radio altimeters can be designed and manufactured,” the report states.

When reached for comment, Verizon did not address the 5G proposals in the report.

“We continue to have positive discussions with her [Federal Aviation Administration] and FCC, and progress is being made. We’re encouraged to see the airlines making progress on these issues as well,” Verizon said in a statement sent to CNET.

AT&T did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The FCC declined to comment.

Read more: The airline industry’s ongoing beef with 5G: Everything you need to know

It’s unclear how seriously the FCC might take these proposals, or whether they would affect current agreements between the FAA and the telcos around C-band 5G. of 2021 and early 2022 on whether carriers could safely launch C-band 5G service without interfering with aircraft landings.

It was a truce intervened in January which allows AT&T and Verizon to enable service in C-band to improve 5G coverage for subscribers as long as they limit C-band to certain airports. These blackout zones were designed to give airlines time to inspect their aircraft fleets by July 2022, a deadline that was extended until July 2023. AT&T and Verizon combined spent almost $70 billion to acquire C-band spectrum licenses during FCC auction held in December 2020 and January 2021.

Airlines are also improving their airport technology. AT&T said around June that it had “developed a more tailored approach to controlling signal strength around corridors that allows us to activate more towers and increase signal strength.”

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