Regulator ‘actively monitoring’ 5G risks for aircraft navigation

But minister asserts no instances of equipment failure related to next-generation network have yet been recorded

The UK’s aviation regulator is “actively monitoring” the possible risks posed by 5G connectivity to aircraft navigation systems, according to a government minister.

About 15 months ago, the Civil Aviation Authority issued a safety notice advising operators of aerodromes and air traffic control services of a “potential interference risk to radio altimeters from 5G mobile technology”.

The notice said that “ with many nations electing to allocate currently unused spectrum – that is located closer to the aerospace reserved band used by radio altimeters – to 5G operations, consequently concern has been raised by several national aviation authorities that radio altimeters may be prone to interference from 5G telecommunications frequencies that could result in loss or malfunction of radio altimeter functionality”.

Jesse Norman, minister for transport and decarbonisation at the Department for Transport, this week indicated that the watchdog continues to keep close tabs on the possible risks.

“The CAA is aware of the concerns around 5G and is actively monitoring any potential risk of 5G interference to radio navigation aids both nationally and internationally,” he said.

The safety notice issued in early 2022 revealed that the watchdog has asked the manufacturers of aircraft machinery “to supply any relevant data they may have regarding system resilience to potential 5G interference”.

But the guidance noted “that there have been no confirmed instances where 5G interference has resulted in aircraft system malfunction or unexpected behaviour”.

This was reiterated by Norman, whose remarks were made in response to a written parliamentary question from fellow Conservative MP Mark Pritchard.

“The risk of aircraft equipment failure remains inherently low but is under constant review,” he said. “To date, no UK or international reports of radio altimeter failure have been directly attributed to 5G technology. The CAA has issued a safety notice across the industry and continues to monitor any concerns that the 5G network could affect equipment onboard aircraft. It will keep this under review and update it to reflect UK and international developments.”

Sam Trendall

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