Emirates, JAL, ANA among those cancelling US flights due to 5G interference

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Telecommunication tower with 5G cellular network antenna on city background

Air India, ANA, Japan Airlines, and Emirates have cancelled some services to the United States due to concerns the deployment of 5G wireless networks could affect the radio altimeters in the aircraft used on these routes.

Emirates announced on Tuesday that flights to Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), Houston (IAH), Miami (MIA), Newark (EWR), Orlando (MCO), San Francisco (SFO) and Seattle (SEA) will be suspended from 19 January.

Emirates added that this suspension would be in force until further notice.

Later on Tuesday AT&T and Verizon announced that they would delay activating 5G on some towers around certain airports.

AT&T made the announcement as it works with the aviation industry and the US Federal Aviation Administration for further information, according to a statement from AT&T spokesperson Megan Ketterer.

“We are frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner.”

American airlines are concerned about a potential “chaos” caused by the deployment of 5G in the United States, a fear which is due to the risks of interference between the frequencies used by this mobile Internet technology and on-board instruments essential for aircraft landing.

The frequencies used by 5G are indeed close to those used by aircraft radio altimeters. American telephone operators have paid tens of billions of dollars to be allocated the frequency band ranging from 3.7 to 3.98 gigahertz (GHz) for the needs of 5G.

The aviation sector fears that this will scramble the data from the radio altimeters, essential for night instruments, in particular for landing or in the event of poor visibility. These operate in the 4.2 to 4.4 GHz spectrum.

If there is no risk of direct interference between the frequencies, the transmission power of the 5G antennas or part of the emissions directed upwards could pose a problem for certain altimeters, likely to be jammed by these nearby frequencies.

Airbus and Boeing had alerted the American authorities in December to these potential interferences. The Federal Aviation Agency FAA obtained to postpone the launch of 5G to 19 January to ensure the perfect security of the system.

The FAA has validated the use of two radio altimeter models and given its approval for 48 of the 88 American airports most directly affected by the risk of 5G interference.

In Europe, the core frequency band for 5G has been delimited between 3.4 and 3.8 GHz, frequencies less close to those of radio altimeters than across the Atlantic. In South Korea, 5G frequencies do not go beyond 3.7 GHz.

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