Several international airlines have announced that they will cancel flights into the United States starting Wednesday due to concerns about 5G deployments planned for January 19. Emirates, Air India, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways have all announced that they are canceling flights due to roll-out of C-band 5G over concerns it could potentially interfere with some instruments. Air India announced on Twitter that it would cease flights to John F. Kennedy International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. now let’s talk about why 5G is Causing flight Cancellation.
What’s 5G got to do with airplanes?
Not much, argue the wireless carriers hoping to deploy the technology. But the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) says it’s worried that C-band could interfere with some radio altimeters, aircraft safety tools that rely on nearby airwaves. The agency is so concerned that it’s been fighting to delay 5G deployment and has issued guidance that could cause flight cancellations from airports operating near certain 5G antennas, meaning that anyone who flies or has one of these devices could be affected.
Flight regulators are very nervous about this C-band update because of how it might affect certain aircraft’s radio altimeters. This device transmits radio waves from an airplane toward the ground in order to help measure a plane’s altitude. Altimeters are especially useful on a cloudy day or in a mountainous area, when pilots can’t see where they’re landing.
The problem is altimeters rely on parts of the spectrum that neighbor the airwaves used by the C-band. In a nightmare scenario, the FAA thinks that signals sent over C-band could interfere with these altimeters — specifically older altimeters — creating a potential safety issue. Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission already determined that 5G would not pose a problem for modern altimeters, and similar 5G technology has already been deployed in Europe with no issue.
It’s unclear whether 5G is an issue for these altimeters. After all, 5G itself isn’t exactly new. 5G smartphones have been on the market since 2019, and last year, nearly 90 million of these devices were shipped in the United States alone. Wireless carriers have promised that the technology won’t just offer higher speeds but also lower latency, which will make activities like streaming media and video calls achievable without lag.
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