AEA and aviation coalition urge extension of 5G C-Band deadline

On Nov. 15, 2022, the Aircraft Electronics Association joined several aviation industry groups urging the United States government to delay deadlines to retrofit radar altimeters designed to avoid potential 5G C-Band interference. In a letter sent to government officials, including the Federal Aviation Administration’s acting administrator and the secretary of transportation, the coalition wrote:

“Our industry is strongly supportive of the deployment and implementation of 5G services nationwide, but we will not compromise aviation safety. Since our conversations last winter, the FAA has verified that certain aircraft RAs are susceptible to interference from 5G signals with a subsequent degradation of safety. Since January 2022, the FAA has documented over 100 FAA incidents of potential 5G interference, the majority of which were found to have a direct RA impact resulting in safety alerts by systems such as the Terrain Avoidance Warning System. Unfortunately, the U.S. government agencies do not appear to be on the same page with respect to these safety issues. As a result, aviation stakeholders are caught in the middle and ultimately passengers and shippers will be the ones who will bear the brunt of any operational disruption caused if this issue is not resolved.

“Inter-agency government progress appears to be at a stalemate, while stakeholders are doing their part to address these issues. Aviation stakeholders, the FAA, and AT&T and Verizon have spent much of the last year trying to understand and implement what is required to continue safely operating aircraft in a 5G environment. This has required compromise, understanding, and investment by all parties. AT&T and Verizon implemented various mitigations, such as taking a phased approach to maintain lower power levels near airports and tilting antennas downward and have agreed to continue those mitigations through July 2023. The aviation industry is taking on the burden of designing and implementing a fleet retrofit to ensure that RAs are not compromised, and retrofitting the entire fleet in less than two years is unprecedented.

“Unfortunately, due to global supply chain issues, lack of a certified solution for one key RA, and the FAA only recently identifying the criteria for RAs that would not need to be changed, RA manufacturers and air carriers will likely be unable to fully meet either the December 2022 deadlines for smaller regional aircraft and many large transports nor the July 2023 retrofit deadline, though we continue to do everything within our power to do so. Further, all this investment will be wasted if a long-term mitigation plan is not put in place and codified in regulation, as additional wireless providers that have not been part of these interim voluntary efforts begin to provide services.

“Our aviation coalition strongly believes that instead of once again waiting until the 11 hour, now is the time for the leadership at federal agencies and the White House to implement a solution that allows 5G to move forward and avoid further flight delays and cancellations. The FAA recently sent a petition to the NTIA and FCC requesting a codification of reasonable mitigations. While we have not seen the FAA’s official petition to the NTIA and FCC, the FAA has informed stakeholders that to continue the operational safety of the NAS, the FCC rules and applicable Report and Order FCC-20-22 should be modified to address safety issues raised by the FAA. Furthermore, as the FCC, NTIA and FAA work to codify these requirements, it is critical to extend these mitigations through the end of 2023 to allow airlines time to complete the retrofit. We respectfully request that the U.S. government share with stakeholders and the public the entire content of the petition by Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. The public has a strong interest in having access to the basis for concerns about aviation safety.

“We will continue to be committed to finding reasonable solutions that allow implementation of 5G while addressing safety and operational disruptions in the NAS. Stakeholders cannot do this alone, and we need the federal government to codify mitigations for all airports and extend the July 2023 and “Power Up” retrofit deadlines. The entire government must work together to ensure future 5G deployment is unencumbered and our aviation system remains the safest in the world. Aviation stakeholders call on the administration to meet with us to discuss a way forward that will achieve the goal of moving 5G forward, while ensuring passengers and cargo reach their destinations safely and on time.”

To read the letter in its entirety, click here.