FAA Reveals 50 Airports That Will Have ‘Buffer Zones’ Ahead of 5G Expansion

By Kurt Stolz on 9 January 2022
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JetBlue’s terminal at JFK

The Federal Aviation Administration published, on Friday, a list of the 50 airports that will have buffer zones where mobile operators AT&T and Verizon Wireless will limit the deployment of new 5G services.

The two mobile operators are rolling out 5G C-band service, on which the two spent a combined $70 billion to secure a portion of the C-band spectrum.  The use of C-band should improve 5G coverage in many areas.

The buffer zones, which will be in place for six months, are intended to reduce the potential interference from 5G antennas with radar altimeters, instruments that tell pilots how far above the terrain the aircraft is flying. This helps pilots navigate and land planes during inclement weather among other situations.

“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,” the FAA said in a statement.

The 50 airports selected include hubs for major U.S. passenger airlines such as Chicago’s O’Hare International, New York’s LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International, Detroit Metro Way County, and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental airports.  The list also includes those aerodromes susceptible to fog and cloud cover such as San Francisco International and Seattle-Tacoma International.

The FAA said it plans to continue to work with aircraft manufacturers as well as mobile operators to ensure that 5G is eventually deployed and to limit the risk of flight disruptions at all airports.

Some airports are not on the list, such as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, because they either aren’t in areas where 5G C-band deployed is slated to take place or they cannot permit low-visibility landings.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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