The rollout of 5G services in the US, by AT&T and Verizon, caused significant disruption in airline services. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warned that the 3.7-3.98 GHz 5G spectrum of the new services may interfere with radio altimeters and other flight instruments. Around 215 flights either planned to depart or land in US airports were cancelled, including eight of Air India’s.
This led to some apprehension in India, which is set to see 5G service rollout in the near future. However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is not likely to support the argument of 5G spectrum interfering with flight operations, said a Mint report. The regulator is likely to discuss the topic during ongoing consultations on spectrum pricing.
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Adequate spectrum buffer
The main reason for the TRAI’s stance is that in India, the 3.3-3.6 GHz band identified for 5G rollout is far below that used by airline altimeters, creating an adequate buffer. Radio altimeters, which measure the height of the plane from the ground, typically operate in the 4.2-4.4 GHz range. Altimeters, apart from reading the height, facilitate automated landings and help detect wind shear, and are hence considered critical aviation tools.
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents Indian telecom service operators, has also repudiated concerns over 5G spectrum interference in flights, said Mint.
By the time India introduces 5G, a large number of countries would have already done so, setting precedents in terms of aviation and other concerns. For now, a 5G spectrum auction is still pending in the country. Around 13 Indian cities are likely to see 5G rollout this year.