The leadership of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee is calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prohibit 5G broadband transmissions in the C-band until the FAA has determined that allowing them would be safe. In a joint letter sent to FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel on Friday, T&I chair Pete DeFazio (D-Oregon) and aviation subcommittee chair Rick Larsen (D-Washington) said they have long had “grave concerns” about the plan to use the band of spectrum between 3.7 and 4.2 GHz (C-band) for 5G broadband service because it could create harmful interference with aircraft radio altimeters.
They further expressed frustration that after a year of the FAA and other federal stakeholders working the issue with the FCC, “We appear no closer to resolving the serious concerns…and with the FCC’s administrative process mostly complete, we’re now on the precipice of a dangerous situation in which the safety of flight hangs on the telecom industry’s decision regarding when to switch on its 5G networks.”
While two major wireless carriers voluntarily delayed by a month deployment from the original proposed December 5 date, “they won’t wait forever,” the lawmakers said.
The T&I leaders called the approach of the FCC and telecom industry to first deploy and then fix issues an “anathema to the strong safety culture we have created and nourished in aviation over the last 20 years. In aviation, we never roll the dice with safety.”
In addition, they said, aviation industry technical analysis has confirmed the likelihood of harmful 5G interference, and the FAA has implicitly acknowledged that risk with its recent safety bulletin calling for operators to remain aware of the potential degradation of radio altimeter capabilities.
DeFazio and Larsen implored the FCC to provide the FAA with all technical data for a full assessment of the risks to aviation and prohibit 5G C-band transitions until that assessment is completed with proper mitigations in place, if necessary.