Aircraft flying in Australia not impacted by 5G interference – yet!

January 17, 2022

Aircraft flying in Australian airspace are safe from the impacts of 5G signals on aircraft safety systems for the moment with no indications of problems that have been uncovered in the US.

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has been closely monitoring the issue and so far has seen no evidence 5G transmissions are currently affecting aircraft.

Last year US airlines and aircraft manufacturers raised serious concerns that a segment of the airwaves to be used by American telecommunications companies for 5G is too close to that utilized by radio altimeters that measure an aircraft’s clearance height over terrain.

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This would impact aircraft systems such as automatic landings, wind shear prediction and terrain warnings.

According to a CASA statement, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has had “no reports of radio altimeter incidents linked to 5G since the telecommunications technology rolled out 2 years ago.”

One of the key differences between Australia’s 5G and that of the US is the transmissions currently do not extend into the part of the spectrum worrying the US aviation industry CASA said.

Aircraft radio altimeters operate in 4.2-4.4Ghz range and the 5G transmissions subject to the interference debate are in the adjacent 3.7-4.2GHz spectrum. According to CASA Australian 5G transmissions currently top out at 3.7GHz, well below the radio altimeter frequencies.

A CASA spokesman told “we are monitoring the situation but telecommunications companies in Australia do not operate 5G in a higher frequency range used in the US and believed to affect radio altimeters. We are not aware of any confirmed cases of 5G interference with radio altimeters in this country since the technology rolled out. Nonetheless, we have asked pilots to report radio altimeter issues so that any information on potential interference can inform future decisions.”

CASA issued its latest airworthiness bulletin on the 5G issue on 24 December 2021 to alert pilots and airlines of possible interference.

It also cautioned that “the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) who are responsible for the management of the Australian frequency spectrum assignment, raised an options paper followed by an outcomes paper looking at the reallocation of frequencies within the 3.7-4.2 GHz band.

ACMA’s proposed re-allocation would allow telecommunication companies licenses to utilize frequencies adjacent to the RA band for Wireless Broadband (WBB) 5G operations.

The US FAA has said that “because the proposed [US] 5G deployment involves a new combination of power levels, frequencies, proximity to flight operations, and other factors, the FAA will need to impose restrictions on flight operations using certain types of radar altimeter equipment close to antennas in 5G networks.”

“These safety restrictions could affect flight schedules and operations, affecting the aviation system. Before and after the 5G deployment begins, the FAA will continue to work every day to reduce effects of this disruption as we make progress to safely integrate 5G and aviation.”