News Feature | November 4, 2021

The Week in 5G — Telecoms & Air Safety Experts At Odds Over C-Band Use, India Could Allot Spectrum Administratively

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By Abby Proch, Electronics Editor

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The longstanding concern from aviation groups that 5G would interfere with airport communications is now becoming a real threat in the U.S. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) is preparing a special bulletin that would outline the perceived interference that 5G deployment would have on aviation navigation systems. In it, the FAA is expected to recommend preventative measures to ensure that radar altimeters, which assist landings in unfavorable conditions and prevent crashes and collisions, are not subject to interference, which could result in travel delays and cancellations.

Airline pilots use radar altimeters in the 4.2GHz to 4.4GHz band, and telecoms plan to use the C-band from 3.3GHz to 4.2GHz, according to Mobile World Live. However, according to the WSJ report, the U.S. contends a buffer of 220 MHz must exist for the two to operate without interference. 

To the north, Canada's telecoms regulator, Industry Canada, is already pushing for a specific resolution — airport buffer zones. According to the Winnipeg Free Press, Industry Canada is recommending that telecoms do not install 5G twoers around the Winnipeg airport, effectively removing any chance that neighbors with eight kilometers would reap the benefits of 5G. The move came as a particular shock to telecoms, despite the potential for aviation interference being a vocal concern throughout the world, as they had just purchased 3500 MHz spectrum, the exact band which the regulator is attempting to ban use of. France and Japan have already implemented similar buffer zones. While the U.S. is noting a necessary 220 MHz buffer, Canadian regulators say buffers between telecommunications and aviation communications must be 550 MHz to 700 Mhz apart.

In a more congenial move, the National Spectrum Consortium (NSC), a research and development organization aimed at promoting collaboration among commercial and government spectrum users, announced a new effort to enable mid-band spectrum sharing solutions. According to the group’s press release, its Advance Trusted and Holistic Spectrum Solutions (PATHSS) group will pursue ways in which the Department of Defense and commercial partners can share 3.1-3.45 GHz.

In India, the country’s Department of Telecommunications is considering an administrative distribution of available spectrum in addition to its current auction. A report from ET Telecom claims there is still a lot of spectrum left as the auction enthusiasm wans, and, backhaul, satellite communications, and private networks aren’t able to garner the share they want and need. What’s more, the report also claims that telecoms Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea are all-in with the spectrum auction while Bharti Airtel is championing administrative distributions.

Also in India, Vodafone Idea  plans to test its 5G solutions for aerial traffic management and motion capture systems, according to Developing Telecoms. The wireless operator has chosen former India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2020 5G Hackathon winners, Vizzbee Robotics Solutions and Tweek Labs, for support. Vizzbee specializes in drones and other low-altitude aerial vehicles, while Tweek Labs specializes in wearables. The testing is expected in the 26GHz and 3.5GHz spectrum.