FAA v. FCC battle over 5G and Radio Altimeters
Policy elements cannot be quantified on a single axsis
Unheard of 2 technical agencies cannot agree on technical resolution
Reviewing 40+ years of regulatory history, there is no recollection of two highly competent administrative bodies unable to resolve disagreements about technical issues. The vehemence of the public statements (usually homogenized by teams of spin doctors) issued by the FAA and the FCC, supported by the companies under their respective jurisdictions is UNSURPASSED. Experts on both sides have used language like “classic dog that did not bark” to characterize their opponents.
As with many administrative debates, the points of contention USUALLY are displayed on the classical Risk/Reward X&Y axes chart. This contretemps cannot be reduced to 2 variables. The risk to a radio altimeter has technical dimensions, safety considerations, costs to minimize a navigational error, time and the human/financial consequences of a crash. The reward axis for 5G includes factors like the cost of spectrum purchase, the capital cost of for the 5G equipment, the billions of expenses for implementation, massive incalculable social benefits and a discounted stream of future earnings.
These numbers cannot be readily converted to a single scale which would signal the optimal intersection of these opposing considerations.
Below are some recent developments in altimeters v. 5G battle:
- The President’s Announcement on the 5G deployment
- A very informative Reuters article that juxtaposes the technical parameters of the 5G frequency allocation vs. the altimeter’s frequency range.
- A harsh attack by a Hill contributor (with Federalist Society libertarian credentials) accusing the FAA of a POWER GRAB. He also asserts that the objections were only recently raised- CONTRA.
- An article in which the communications industry inventories the billions, and billions, and billions of dollars invested.
The JDA Journal frequently, far from always, sides with aviation and safety. For that effort to be transparent, the above mentioned pieces are posted below without further commentary- YOU READ AND DECIDE FOR YOURSELF!!!
David Shepardson Reuters
Toby Sterling Reuters
Supantha Mukherjee Reuters
Joyce Lee Reuters
Tim Hepher Reuters
JAN 4, 2022 5:41PM EST
Jan 4 (Reuters) – U.S. telecom companies and airlines have been fighting for weeks over the potential impact of 5G wireless services on aircraft, in stark contrast to the rollout of new-generation services elsewhere, which has broadly gone ahead without airing new safety concerns.
Here is some background on the dispute, in which Verizon Communications VZ.N and AT&T T.N agreed on Monday to a two-week delay in using newly acquired wireless spectrum, drawing back from a standoff that threatened to disrupt flights. The agreement promises to avert most, but not all, potential disruption to air travel from 5G deployment
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
The U.S. auctioned
→U.S. aviation industry groups in recent months stepped up concerns and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a formal warning in November of the risk of interference with flight equipment.←
In the airline industry, radar altimeters, which measure altitude, operate in the 4.2-4.4 GHz range and there are concerns that there is not a big enough buffer from the frequencies to be used by the telecoms companies.
The companies have faced pressure from the White House, airlines and aviation unions to delay the deployment amid concerns about potential interference of 5G with sensitive aircraft electronics like radio altimeters.
WHY IS THAT POTENTIALLY IMPORTANT FOR AVIATION?
Radio altimeters help to minimize the risk of accidents or collisions by giving an accurate reading of the proximity to the ground. The readouts are also used to facilitate automated landings and to help detect dangerous currents called windshear.
WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES THE FREQUENCY MAKE?
In short, the higher the frequency in the spectrum, the faster the service. So in order to get full value from 5G, operators want to operate at higher frequencies.
Some of the C-Band spectrum auctioned in the United States had been used for satellite radio but the transition to 5G means there will be much more traffic.
IS THIS A PROBLEM ELSEWHERE?
Following years of international discussions, the European Union in 2019 set standards for mid-range 5G frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz range.
They have been auctioned and taken into use in many of the bloc’s 27 member states so far without issue.
Currently, 5G mobile communication wireless stations are in operation near airports, but there have been no reports of problems.
CTIA, a U.S. wireless trade group, said in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission that “wireless carriers in nearly 40 countries throughout Europe and Asia now use the C-Band for 5G, with no reported effects on radio altimeters that operate in the same internationally designated 4.2-4.4 GHz band.”
It added “each day U.S. aircraft, carrying thousands of U.S. citizens, land in these countries without incident and with no expression of concern by the FAA or foreign aviation regulators. This is the classic dog that did not bark. The laws of physics are no different in the United States than in Europe or Asia.”
But airlines had warned that without an agreement the safety precautions could disrupt up to 4% of daily flights. An airline group said the issue had the potential “to divert or cancel thousands of flights every day, thus disrupting millions of passenger reservations, causing substantial disruptions.”
United Airlines UAL.N Chief Executive Scott Kirby said last month that left unresolved the interference issue would mean that at major U.S. airports in the event of bad weather, cloud cover or even heavy smog “you could only do visual approaches essentially.”
(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam, Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm, Joyce Lee in Seoul, Tim Hepher in Paris; editing by Grant McCool)
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.
 2017 JOURNAL POST ABOUT 5gAuctioning Aeronautical Radionavigation Spectrum Is A Major Mistake.Aviation Safety V. Communications Clout—Ligado’s GPS Interference; Two Attacks On GPS Navigation Integrity Could Cause An Aviation Disaster; BREAKING NEWS High Level Game Of Chicken- 5G V. GPS 12.05.21-DEFERRED–WHY; Rare Bipartisan Letter Should Make The FCC Realize The Safety Significance Of The 5.9 GHz Radio Frequency Band; Round Three In The 5G V. GPS FCC Battle; A Technical Battle FCC V. DOD, FAA, Etc. May Involve Much More; FAA’s AD Escalates The Technical Battle With FCC Over 5G; Magazine Asks Whether FCC Swept The 5G Issue Under The Rug–TECHNICAL EXPERTS Please Comment!!!
 Though this is not a ZERO sum policy question. There may be degrees of compromise, but the public record does not mention exploration of this option. Massive $$$ on one side and Safety (In a simpler B/C calculation, Boeing’s lean manufacturing exercise may have demonstrated the need for intolerance for this risk.
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