FAA Ignores FCC, Limits U.S. 5G Over Unsubstantiated Safety Concerns
from the weird-standoffs dept
We’d already noted that the FAA had been pushing to impose limits on 5G deployments in certain bands due to safety concerns. The problem: the FCC, the agency with the expertise in spectrum interference, has repeatedly stated those concerns are unfounded based on the FCC’s own research. Worse, the FAA has proven a bit intractable in providing the FCC with data proving their claims of harm. The FAA claims that deploying 5G in the 3.7 to 3.98 GHz “C-Band” will cause interference with certain radio altimeters. But the FCC has shown that more than 40 countries have deployed 5G in this band with no evidence of harm.
That didn’t seem to sway the FAA, which prodded both AT&T and Verizon to pause deployment in the C-band. The FAA’s refusal to listen to the FCC, or be transparent about sharing any data to support its claims, has pissed off the FCC. To the point where a bipartisan coalition of six former agency commissioners and bosses wrote a joint letter politely tut-scolding the agency for being bull-headed:
We are concerned about the Federal Aviation Administration?s (FAA) recent efforts to revisit the FCC?s 2020 decision? to free airwaves for the fast 5G mobile service that?s to start next month, the six said in a letter dated Monday obtained by Bloomberg News.
?The FAA position threatens to derail the reasoned conclusions reached by the FCC after years of technical analysis and study,? the signers, a mix of Republicans and Democrats, said in the letter. They are Ajit Pai, Tom Wheeler, Mignon Clyburn, Julius Genachowski, Michael Copps and Michael Powell.
The weird thing is even one of the FAA’s own recent bulletins (pdf) states there are no “proven reports of harmful interference” with C-Band 5G deployments anywhere in the world. Despite no evidence of harm, the FCC was careful to set aside a 220 MHz guard band that will remain unused as a buffer to prevent this theoretical interference — technically double the amount manufacturers like Boeing requested. The FAA continues to maintain its claim, but so far has refused to provide the FCC with data proving it (but did manage to find time to leak its claims to the Wall Street Journal).
It’s a fairly bizarre feud caused by a stubborn agency that’s understandably so concerned about the faintest threat to public safety, it’s refusing to transparently work with the one agency that actually understands how the technology works. Harold Feld, who probably knows more about U.S. wireless spectrum policy than anybody in the country, has written a long primer here for anybody who’s interested.