5G Services/Aviation: Danbatta Assures of Safe Operation in Nigeria

5G Services/Aviation: Danbatta Assures of Safe Operation in Nigeria

Wednesday, January 19, 2022 3:35 pm

Umar Danbatta, NCC Vice-Chairman

Amid the raging controversy of the effect of 5G services on aviation safety in some parts of the world, the Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Nigerian Communications Commission, Umar Danbatta,  has assured the public of measures to ensure the safe operation of 5G in the country.

Last month, he congratulated MTN and Mafab Communicationsas the winners of the 5G spectrum auction, saying the country was ready to commit to technological developments.

“It is my pleasure to announce that at the end of the auction, Mafab Communications Limited and MTN Communications Nigeria Limited emerged as provisional licence winners,” he had said.

But global concerns over the compatibility of 5G operation with aviation services heightened on Monday when the chief executives of major U.S. passenger and cargo carriers warned of an impending “catastrophic” aviation crisis in less than 36 hours, when AT&T and Verizon are set to deploy new 5G service.

The airlines warned the new C-Band 5G service set to begin on today could render a significant number of widebody aircraft unusable, “could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas” and cause “chaos” for U.S. flights.

“Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded,” wrote the chief executives of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines , United Airlines , Southwest Airlines  and others in a letter first reported by Reuters.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had also warned that potential interference could affect sensitive airplane instruments such as altimeters and significantly hamper low-visibility operations.

“With the proposed restrictions at selected airports, the transportation industry is preparing for some service disruption. We are optimistic that we can work across industries and with government to finalize solutions that safely mitigate as many schedule impacts as possible,” plane maker Boeing  said on Monday.

Action is urgent, the airlines added in the letter also signed by UPS Airlines, Alaska Air, Atlas Air, JetBlue Airways and FedEx Express. “To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt.”

The letter was sent to White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

AT&T and Verizon, which won nearly the entire C-Band spectrum in an $80 billion auction last year, on January 3, agreed to buffer zones around 50 airports to reduce interference risks and take other steps to cut potential interference for six months. They also agreed to delay deployment for two weeks until Wednesday, temporarily averting an aviation safety standoff, after previously delaying service by 30 days.

But Airlines for America, the group that organized the letter, had not believed that was enough.

Danbatta’s assurance

Speaking to QUICKREAD on Monday, Danbatta, a professor, said, “Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) to other services that may arise from roll out of 5G services is a source of concern to the global telecommunications community, including Nigeria.

“We are (the NCC) studying the situation closely and would put measures in place, consistent with global best practice, to ensure Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) of 5G services with other services.”

There is precedence elsewhere in Europe, where following years of international discussions, the European Union in 2019 set standards for mid-range 5G frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz range.

They have been auctioned and taken into use in many of the bloc’s 27 member states so far without issue.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which oversees 31 states, said on Dec. 17 the latest discussion was specific to U.S. airspace. “At this stage, no risk of unsafe interference has been identified in Europe,” it said.

Latest Development in the US

On Tuesday AT&T and Verizon Communications agreed to temporarily defer turning on some wireless towers near key airports to avert a significant disruption to U.S. flights as they roll out 5G service that will bring faster wireless service to tens of millions of people.

President Joe Biden hailed the agreement, saying it “will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90% of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled.”

But airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration warned that new restrictions as a result of 5G service, which Verizon and AT&T are to launch on Wednesday, would still prompt some flight disruptions. Delta Air Lines  said while the wireless moves were a positive development, “some flight restrictions may remain.”

The FAA has warned that 5G wireless interference could affect sensitive airplane instruments such as radio altimeters and significantly hamper low-visibility operations.

The FAA said it anticipated “there will be some impacts due to the limitations of some radio altimeters.”

According to Reuters, Verizon will temporarily not turn on about 500 towers near airports, sources told Reuters, or less than 10% of their planned deployment, while the carriers and the administration work on a permanent solution, sources briefed on the matter said. Details of the agreement, including the length of the pause, were not disclosed.

Both Verizon and AT&T will launch 5G elsewhere in the country.

Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement that the FAA “has a process in place to assess altimeter performance in the 5G environment and resolve any remaining concerns. It is essential that the FAA now complete this process with both care and speed.”




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