The Federal Aviation Administration has given airlines until 2024 to install equipment to mitigate issues caused by 5G.
Verizon and AT&T spent tens of billions to purchase mid-band spectrum for their 5G rollout. Unfortunately, the spectrum is very close to that used by aircraft altimeters, leading to concerns that 5G could cause dangerous interference with flights.
After negotiations and multiple concessions, Verizon and AT&T agreed to limit their mid-band 5G deployment around airports for a limited time, but the airline industry was unable to meet the agreed upon deadline of July 2023.
According to a notice of proposed rule making, the FAA wants to make February 1, 2024 the new deadline for aircraft to be retrofitted.
Non-radio altimeter tolerant airplanes can operate under part 121 subject to the revised AFM limitations until February 1, 2024, without meeting the radio altimeter performance requirements proposed in this AD. If this AD is finalized as proposed, after February 1, 2024, airplanes operating under part 121 must meet the radio altimeter tolerant requirements specified.
The FAA is also concerned that errors — even minor ones — occurring as a result of 5G interference could lead to “desensitization” of the crew to error messages, increasing the chance of something important being missed.
The FAA has assessed the cumulative effects of increasing numbers of erroneous warnings across the fleet of transport and commuter airplanes. Although they may seem minor in isolation such that some may consider them a mere nuisance, these warnings have safety implications over time. The erroneous warnings increase flightcrew workload as they try to ascertain the validity of the warning. Repeated determinations that the warning occurred in error will lead to flightcrew desensitization to warnings from these safety systems. In other words, as the flightcrew becomes more desensitized to erroneous warnings, they are less likely to react to an accurate warning, negating the safety benefits of the warning altogether and likely leading to a catastrophic incident.
The FAA is clearly ready to put the whole 5G fiasco behind it, while Verizon and AT&T are eager to use the spectrum they spent billions acquiring. It appears all parties may be satisfied early next year.