IATA Warns That 5G May Interfere With Landing In Nigeria

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The International Air Transport Association has urged the Federal Government of Nigeria and the governments of other countries to work closely with the aviation industry to ensure that aviation and incumbent aviation safety systems can safely co-exist with new 5G services.


The organisation spoke against the backdrop of flight disruptions caused by the recent deployment of 5G services by telecommunication companies in the United States and plans by Nigeria and other countries to deploy 5G services in the coming months.


While IATA recognises the economic importance of making spectrum available to support next generation commercial wireless telecommunications, it posited that maintaining current levels of safety of passengers, flight crews, and aircraft must continue to be one of governments’ highest priorities.


The call came as the global airline industry met in Doha, Qatar for its 78th IATA Annual General Meeting.

A statement by IATA, the Geneva-based body representing over 290 international airlines in over 120 countries, quoted its Director-General, Willie Walsh, as saying, “We must not repeat the recent experience in the United States, where the rollout of C-band spectrum 5G services created enormous disruption to aviation, owing to the potential risk of interference with radio altimeters that are critical to aircraft landing and safety systems. In fact, many countries have successfully managed to facilitate the requirements of 5G service providers, while including necessary mitigations to preserve aviation safety and uninterrupted services. These include, for example, Brazil, Canada, France and Thailand.”


He added, ‘”Before deciding on any spectrum allocations or conducting spectrum auctions, IATA called for governments to ensure close coordination and mutual understandings between national spectrum and aviation safety regulators so that each frequency allocation/assignment is comprehensively studied and is proven not to adversely impact aviation safety and efficiency.”


According to IATA, robust testing in coordination with aviation subject matter experts is critically important in providing necessary information.

It said measures that had already been used by some governments include ensuring thorough testing, sufficient spectrum separation between 5G C-band deployments and 4.2-4.4 GHz frequency band used by existing radio altimeters.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation and the International Telecommunications Union have both recognised and reminded their member states and administrations of the importance of ensuring that existing aviation systems and services are free from harmful interference.


“This will become even more critical as more and more spectrum is being allocated to new generation telecommunications services,” IATA added.


A former Managing Director, Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, has said telcos in Nigeria must work with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to ensure safe rollout of 5G services.


He spoke against the backdrop of the plan by MTN and Mafab to deploy 5G services in Nigeria, following their purchase of 5G spectrum for $547m from the Nigerian Communications Commission.

However, he said 5G services could pose risks to aircraft landing if its frequency is located close to onboard aviation safety equipment.


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