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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

5G and Aviation Safety

The FAA, collaborating with the aviation sector and wireless providers, has completed work to ensure that radio signals from newly activated wireless telecommunications systems can coexist safely with flight operations in the United States until at least January 1, 2028. The risk of interference from 5G has been mitigated and the aviation industry has seen minimal disruption as a result of these efforts. 

How the FAA Helped to Integrate 5G 

On January 9, 2023, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed an Airworthiness Directive (AD) that would continue to allow aviation and 5G C-Band to safely coexist. The directive requires aircraft in the United States after Feb.1, 2024 to be equipped to safely operate in the vicinity of 5G C-Band wireless signals. The directive would mandate that transport category airplanes used in scheduled passenger or cargo flight operations have 5G C-Band-tolerant radio altimeters, or install an acceptable radio frequency filter. 

The agency issued a deadline for airlines to upgrade airplane altimeters by July 1, 2023. The deadline went into effect just before new rules prohibiting certain landings in low-visibility conditions without upgraded altimeters. 

This came after the FAA reached a voluntary agreement with Verizon and AT&T to delay some C-Band and 5G usage until July 1, 2023 to allow air carriers time to retrofit aircraft altimeters to ensure they will not face interference. As of the end of September 2023, the entire U.S. airline fleet has upgraded their equipment and the risk of 5G interference has been mitigated. 

Collaboration with Wireless Companies

On January 3, 2022 the FAA came to an agreement with AT&T and Verizon, agreeing to a voluntary delay and mitigations which could substantially reduce disruptions to air operations. 

On January 7, 2022 the FAA released a list of 50 airports that had buffer zones when wireless companies turned on 5G C-band service. Traffic volume, the number of low-visibility days and geographic location factored into the selection. The wireless companies agreed to turn off transmitters and make other adjustments near these airports for six months to minimize potential 5G interference with sensitive aircraft instruments used in low-visibility landings.

During the January 5-18, 2022 delay period, the FAA: 

  • Received vital 5G transmitter location and power level information from the wireless companies.
  • Facilitated data sharing between avionics manufacturers and wireless companies.
  • Worked with airlines to help manage and minimize potential delays and cancellations in affected areas.
  • Determined that some GPS-guided approaches may be used at certain airports.
  • Educated aviation stakeholders.
  • Worked with airlines on how they can demonstrate altimeters are safe and reliable in certain 5G C-band environments. This is known as the Alternative Method of Compliance (AMOC) process.

5G Background

Last updated: Tuesday, October 24, 2023