UK aviation authority says it has no concerns about C-Band 5G

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The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says it has no reason to believe that 5G services using C-Band spectrum could interfere with sensitive aircraft equipment, putting it at odds with its counterparts in the US.

The American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is concerned that 5G networks powered by mid-range ‘C-Band’ spectrum could affect sensitive electronics, like altimeters, that rely on frequencies located between 4.2 and 4.4GHz.

Operators in the US have disputed these fears but have agreed to a range of measures to help mitigate the perceived threat, including airport buffer zones at 50 locations in the US. Meanwhile, the FAA has issued safety notices to airlines and plane manufacturers.

5G aviation threat 

The FAA’s views have largely been unechoed by aviation regulators in other countries. In a safety notice issued last month, the CAA said that although it had acknowledged the FAA’s assessment, it did not believe there was any need to take any immediate action.

“There have been no reported incidents of aircraft systems being affected by 5G transmissions in UK airspace, but we are nonetheless working with Ofcom and the Ministry of Defence to make sure that the deployment of 5G in the UK does not cause any technical problems for aircraft," confirmed the CAA.

UK operators have also moved to dispel any fears. Industry body Mobile UK said C-Band spectrum had been used in many other countries without any reported incidents and that existing 5G services had operated in the UK for several years.

It added that multiple parties, including the CAA, Ofcom and the Ministry of Defence were all working together to ensure there was no interference.

“The UK's mobile network operators follow all health and safety guidelines and engage with a variety of industries on interference,” said Gareth Elliott, Head of Policy and Communications at Mobile UK. “Mobile operators are actively coordinating with the aviation authorities to ensure no interference in the UK.”

“We're aware that the aviation sector is looking at this; we've done our own technical analysis and are yet to see any evidence that would give us cause for concern,” added Ofcom.

All four major UK operators have licences for mid-range frequencies located between 3.4GHz and 4.2GHz. Such spectrum offers a compromise between the range and indoor penetration characteristics of low-range airwaves and the huge capacity offered by high-band frequencies.

The spectrum is seen as crucial to the rollout of 5G networks as it will help operators to improve coverage in rural areas and enhance capacity in busy urban locations where network density is critical.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.