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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Filed Under: 5g, c-band, faa, safety, wireless
Companies: at&t, verizon

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  1. identicon
    Annonymouse, 23 Nov 2021 @ 8:40am


    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.

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