FAA Blocks 5G Deployments Over Safety Concerns Despite No Actual Evidence Of Harm

from the evidence-optional dept

A few weeks back, both Verizon and AT&T announced they’d be pausing some aspects of their 5G deployments over FAA concerns that those deployments would create significant safety hazards. The problem: there’s absolutely no evidence that those safety concerns are legitimate.

The FAA and airline industry claim that use of the 3.7 to 3.98 GHz “C-Band” spectrum to deploy 5G wireless creates interference for avionics equipment (specifically radio altimeters). But the FCC has closely examined the claims and found no evidence of actual harm anywhere in the world, where more than 40 countries have deployed C-band spectrum for 5G use. Just to be sure, the FCC set aside a 220 MHz guard band that will remain unused as a sort of buffer to prevent this theoretical interference (double the amount Boeing requested).

None of this was enough for the FAA. That’s of major annoyance to AT&T and Verizon, which paid $45.45 billion and $23.41 billion respectively earlier this year for C-band spectrum, and have been widely and justifiably critcized for underwhelming 5G network performance and availability so far. Consumer advocates and policy experts like Harold Feld are also confused as to why the FAA continues to block deployment in these bands despite no evidence of actual harm:

“…the technical evidence on which the FAA bases its interference concerns have a lot of problems ? not least of which that about 40 other countries operate similar 5G deployments in the same C-Band without any interference showing up. Either physics works differently in the U.S., or the report at the center of this controversy needs to explain why this hasn?t shown up in any other country where deployments are either authorized or have already taken place.”

Not only did the FAA block the deployment of 5G in the C-band based on what appears to be nonexistent evidence of harm, Feld suggests that while the FAA has been leaking their concerns to the Wall Street Journal, they’ve simultaneously refused to hand over needed data to the FCC (you know, the agency that actually has expertise in wireless spectrum deployment and use).

As Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica notes, the FAA’s own November 2 bulletin (pdf) states there’s no “proven reports of harmful interference” with C-Band 5G deployments anywhere in the world. As Feld notes, the entire fracas (which began during the Trump era and continues until now) should be remedied once the FCC is finally fully staffed:

“If nothing else, this exercise should make it abundantly clear why the Senate needs to confirm Davison, Rosenworcel and Sohn as quickly as possible. We cannot have spectrum disputes between agency fought out in the press in ways that destabilize confidence in the safety of air travel. Federal policy at this level is not a game of chicken, and cannot be fought out like this in the press. We need the key agencies here at full strength and able to resolve the systemic problem ? not just the existing problem.”

In the interim, the dumb squabble will just contribute to the existing din of gibberish about how 5G is a health and safety hazard. Evidence of most of these claims remains entirely optional.

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Companies: at&t, verizon

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Comments on “FAA Blocks 5G Deployments Over Safety Concerns Despite No Actual Evidence Of Harm”

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32 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I read this and wondered if it was another example of a certain orange moron appointing people with questionable associations to the reality of their position to run the agency.

A quick search confirmed that, while the current FAA head doesn’t seem to be as openly unqualified or hostile to the agency’s effectiveness as some of his other appointees, he was indeed a Trump nomination.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m putting this as part a top level comment as well, but I’m going to do this as a response here as well.

The FAA banned cell phones for decades on the very same "it interfere with da radios" premise. The FAA doesn’t like anything other than planes communicating wirelessly. For some reason my CRT TV had to accept interference from my cell phone otherwise planes would be falling from the sky.

Its the same here. lots of FUD to justify their jobs and hidebound efforts to keep plane travel in the 50s while the airport lives in 1984.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Exactly. This has nothing to do with Trump or his choices of people. The FAA has long been against anything that they don’t control.

I’m old enough to remember not just cell phone hate, but the 8-bit revolution they stepped on! The game systems they stepped on. The cable tv rollout.
keep in mind this is the same FAA that stepped on wireless phones. Wired phones. CFL lightbulbs (Mother Jones did an article on bulbs that touched on that if I recall correctly).

They bytch about everything. It’s rule one for any new technology. The faa will complain about it.
I’m surprised their offices aren’t wrapped in tinfoil.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"I’m surprised their offices aren’t wrapped in tinfoil."

[citation required]

I find it remarkable, though, how the US seems unable to keep any agency from sliding down the rabbit hole of "insane". It’s not as if the phenomenon of narcissistic mini-popes helming their agencies like personal ultra-authoritarian fiefdoms is unknown elsewhere…but in the US it seems the rule rather than the exception that this is the case. And I really want to know why.

Annonymouse says:

Re: Re:

The cluster f… ahem … the issues predate the orange one by a few decades.

Agencies still operate with various imperial units of measurement while the real scientists and engineers, with some sad exceptions, operate with metric units.

You would think operating in base 10 would be right up the alley of finger counters but then again nobody seems able to calculate change without the help of an electronic crutch.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s just units. I’m in the UK, we buy ‘gas’ by the litre, measure large distances in miles, and state fuel consumption in MPG. I’m old enoigh to remember teachers talking about fps, Ergs and Slugs. Conversion can be done – even if one has to rely on an electronic crutch

Concerning is the rejection/complete ignorance of the actual science.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s just units. I’m in the UK, we buy ‘gas’ by the litre, measure large distances in miles, and state fuel consumption in MPG. I’m old enoigh to remember teachers talking about fps, Ergs and Slugs. Conversion can be done – even if one has to rely on an electronic crutch

Concerning is the rejection/complete ignorance of the actual science.

Anonymous Coward says:

so, which mobile phone companies paid who and how much, to stop this service, simply because the companies didn’t wanna pay out to upgrade their equipment? cant be any other reason for stopping this deployment. i wonder how soon the ‘cap in hand’ brigade will be out begging for yet more tax payers money to pay for it?

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

between the confusion of policy experts, and the conspiracy theorists in our comments, theres a lot of "why could they possibly be doing this?"

The FAA banned cell phones being on while the plane is in motion for decades on the very same "it interfere with da radios" premise. A decade after anecdotal evidence from widespread failure to turn them off and academic studies pointed out this wasn’t likely, it still took congress repeatedly dragging them through the mud and repeated high-profile spats with passengers for them to allow "Airplane mode". The FAA doesn’t like anything other than planes communicating wirelessly. Regardless of the evidence, this is what the FAA has done.

Its the same here. Lots of FUD to justify their jobs and hidebound efforts to keep plane travel in the 50s while the airport lives in 1984. I’m more confused why a "policy expert" would find themselves confused over this action. What part of the FAA’s history suggests they are forward looking when it comes to communications tech?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Here is real pilots view of the problem, supported by actual research. There is a potential problem with radar altimeters used for blind landings, which means there may be a need for some restrictions around airports. That is the problems may arise during final approach and automatic landings in poor visibility, and the autopilot systems are flying the plane onto the runway.

Anonymous Coward says:

It wouldn’t surprise me if the wireless telcos didn’t put the FAA up to this as cover for their lack of coverage. We keep hearing about retiring 3G/2G (what are we supposed to fall back on when we go over our 4G data? oh, more money.), and their 5G networks, but there the hell are they? And why should everyone be forced to "upgrade" and pay for fake 5G? — Note also that the notices for G retirement, even from places like Consumer Cellular, are essentially scaring older and less knowledgeable people into buying new phones for no reason.

If you thought the whole 4G thing in the states was a lie and a scam, welcome to the latest one.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think going over your allotment forces reversion to 3G, it triggers bandwidth limits to 3G speeds. Or 2G or whatever.

The question really is what to do with all these old phones. Normally they’d be given away to various groups as emergency devices, such as abused women’s organizations, but if the network doesn’t exist, free 911 calls are kind of useless.

And the roadside emergency assistance system in my 2014 car is also useless. Alas, Lexus is not interested in providing an upgrade, even though as a technical challenge it’s laughable. Throwing a whole car away just to get that feature seems a bit extreme, at least to a working grunt like me.

Rocky says:

Re: Re: Re:

Throwing a whole car away just to get that feature seems a bit extreme, at least to a working grunt like me.

Which I blame on planned obsolescence. There are two things at play here, one, if they don’t support upgrades for older cars you will eventually be forced to buy a new one which helps with, two, keeping the cost down on having spare-parts available. The gap that exists between how long a manufacturer finds it convenient to support the vehicle and how long the car can actually function reliable is where we find 3rd party parts, but almost never will there be drop-in replacements for any electronics you may need.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Unfortunately I am now forced to point out that you are and idiot.

I may have a few deeply heals beliefs that out me at odds with staff and readers here. But even I am not that self centred to say something like that.

For one thing writers here call out anyone and everyone who acts stupid. On a more consistent rate than even the middle ground CNN or FOX.

This is an opinion site, stating opinions based on fact. Something OAN and MSNBC tend to ignore: facts.

Don’t you dare compare them to fake news. Because I will call you out. Trump supporter or not; I will absolutely bury you on facts.
I have never come close to your stupidity of calling this site’s writers anything other than mistaken.

And you’re clearly just another idiot stuck to what your alt- aspects of party told you.

Oh, and why hide? My username is the same across the Internet. Usenet. Relay. BBSs.
Anyone who posts as anonymous is a self righteous taco shart.

Be it lostinlodos or lostinlowdos I’ve always posted as me.
What are you afraid of you liquidised excrement factor?
Being flushed?
Go away. Your type are the very scat that xg girls won’t touch. Let alone eat.

If your shite smells worse than thrice vomited bacon and eggs you are the problems
Again.
Go away.

Citizen5 says:

Poorly Research Article

Seems Mr. Bode failed to do any proper review before he wrote this article. There was a Supreme Court case against the FCC – USA Case 20-1025 Document 1910111 which outlines extreme negligence by the FCC in violating their guidelines. They failed to respond to health concerns reported to them over the last 30 years and perform appropriate health studies. While it is true that it does not create non-ionizing radiation, the more serious impact, it was proven to cause fertility issues, neurological problems such as motor function and memory issues, as well as radiation poisoning (manifesting in a variety of neurological conditions). The continued publications of poorly researched information like this prevents individuals who suffer from these issues to have awareness as to their true cause.

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