Wireless carriers and airlines battle for 5G expansion near US airports
Several airports in the Midwest, but not Madison, in the “buffer zone”
MADISON, Wis. – A higher level of 5G wireless service is coming soon, which has the potential to not only make phones faster, but also create thousands of jobs and help expand broadband service.
But airlines want to make sure the new technology doesn’t interfere with the safety of air travel.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a battle between major airlines and mobile operators.
“5G is now the biggest issue facing the airline (industry). It’s remarkable to say in a world where we are still in COVID,” United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said.
The launch of the new 5G ultra-wideband service has been pushed back twice. Now it is set to depart on January 19 using frequencies airlines say could interfere with the instruments used to land the plane.
“Where it will be most obvious to you, the traveler, at first is that we will no longer be able to conduct low visibility approaches,” said Madison-area pilot Jeff Skiles.
Skiles, Miracle’s co-pilot on the Hudson flight, now flies 787 Dreamliners for American Airlines.
“The (Federal Aviation Administration), their primary goal is to protect the safety of the traveling public, and that’s you and me,” he said. “They won’t allow us to do the kind of operations that we can do today with radio altimeter data if 5G becomes an issue, and I say if because no one knows.”
Based on this unknown, the FAA this week released a list of 50 airports that will have buffer zones to counter potential 5G interference.
Madison isn’t in line to have 5G ultra-wideband service until late next year, so Dane County Regional Airport isn’t on that list, but News 3 Now has learned that carriers wireless have applied to the city for about 50 to 60 permits. for new cell towers.
“From a municipal perspective … we’re purely permit custodians,” said Hannah Mohelnitzky, spokeswoman for Madison’s engineering department.
It’s a constant process for the city, as mobile operators update their technology.
“The first step is for the cellphone company to decide they need to build there,” Mohelnitzky said. “The second step is to find a location and then work with the city or municipality and the aesthetic guidelines in place.”
Currently, there are no plans for new towers near the airport.
“If they’re going to try to apply to get closer to the airport, they’ll definitely have to go through the FAA and there’s probably a longer list of rules they’ll have to follow,” Mohelnitzky said.
Fourteen of 18 destinations outside of Madison, including Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport – has 5G buffer zones, but four – Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC as well as airports in Denver, Tampa and Atlanta, will not.
LIST: Airports with 5G buffer
A lobby group representing the wireless industry highlights the successful coexistence of 5G with airlines in Europe.
“Nearly 40 countries are already using 5G in C-band with no impact on aviation,” the group said in a statement.
Yet there are differences.
“I understand they use slightly different frequencies, they use less powerful transmitters on their towers, so it’s not quite the same as what we have here or what is proposed to be distributed here in the United States,” Skiles said.
The airlines argue that the issue needs further investigation.
“You know, it’s not a done deal, it’s never been investigated, and that’s really the problem,” Skiles said. “The Department of Transport and the industry are asking the cellular industry to say, ‘Give us some time to find out if this is a problem at all, maybe it isn’t. “”
The wireless industry has paid over $80 billion to acquire this bandwidth.
Without a solution, airlines say flights will have to be delayed and cancelled, which will affect around 32 million travelers this year.
Government agencies remain optimistic about a solution.
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