20 January, 2022

Facts about 5G and aviation in Europe

ETNO, the Association representing Europe’s leading telecom operators, is following the debate on potential coexistence issues between certain aircraft systems and 5G deployment, which was initiated in the United States.

We have therefore gathered some facts that respond to potential doubts or questions regarding the European situation:

  • The US debate concerns mainly certain models of radio altimeters, which are instruments used to measure the altitude by aircrafts or helicopters;
  • Such instruments are authorized to operate within the 4200-4400 MHz spectrum band;
  • In Europe, the spectrum frequencies used for 5G services are 3400-3800 MHz (within the so called C-Band);
  • This means that the band used for 5G services in Europe is at least 400 MHz below the ones used by altimeters, therefore providing ample separation with frequencies used by radio altimeters;
  • In the current phase of deployment, similarly, 5G services in the US are deployed in the 3700-3800 MHz (C-Band). In later phases, 5G deployment in the US will be able to operate up to 3980 MHz (C-Band) – still a significant 220 MHz separation from radio altimeters;
  • To date, hundreds of thousands of 5G base stations in almost 40 nations around the globe are already deployed in the C-Band with no issues for aviation. This is the case, for example, of Japan, where the separation is 100 MHz. No disruptions have been reported in Japan;
  • In Europe, according to information from European regulatory authorities, current records do not show any reports of interferences between 5G services and altimeters, despite the fact that 5G deployment has taken place for several years now;
  • Within the CEPT, Europe has a solid governance model in place for reviewing – and agreeing upon – the conditions for use of spectrum frequencies, including 5G frequencies;
  • The Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) of the CEPT has a specific working group that brings together all the relevant stakeholders: telecom regulators, aviation regulators (i.e. Eurocontrol, EASA), as well as representatives from both the telecoms and airline industries. This working group follows the issue of coexistence between 5G services and aviation and is tasked to conduct all relevant studies on the matter.

Recent statements by European public authorities:

European Aviation Safety Agency (December 2021): “At this stage, no risk of unsafe interference has been identified in Europe”. Full bulletin here.

Norway’s Telecom Regulator (January 2022): "The 5G networks now being developed in Norway and Europe use lower frequencies than in the US and other parts of the world. The frequencies we use have a greater distance from those used in the altimeters in aircraft, and we therefore do not have the same problem”. In addition, it also states: “authorities are not aware on reported interference from 5G to the altimeters, and 5G deployment has been ongoing for several years in Europe and the rest of the world. In Japan where they currently use frequencies closest to the altimeters, tens of thousands of 5G base stations have been taken in use. As far as Nkom is aware, no interfernce has been reported there”. Full statement here.

German Federal Telecom Regulator (January 2022): underlines how measurements carried out in France and Norway “have shown that there has been no concrete influence on the instruments so far”. Reports here.

 

Update, 26 January 2022: This fact sheet has been updated to reflect that experience in several countries shows how 5G in the C-Band already co-exists with aviation and that the US currently deploy in the 3700-3800 MHz band.

© ETNO 2022
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