Indian telcos ordered not to roll out 5G around airports

indian telcos 5G airports
Indira Gandhi International Airport, March 24, 2019, New Delhi, India. Image by Tuayai | Bigstockphoto

Indian authorities have directed telcos rolling out 5G networks using the C-band to create a buffer and safety zone in and around airports to avoid interference with aircraft radio frequencies. That means 5G services will not be available to users in airports for the foreseeable future.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) have separately directed Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea to avoid putting up any 5G site within 2.1 kilometres of both ends of the runway at all airports in India.

The DoT also informed all three telcos that 5G base stations can be installed in the periphery of 540 metres after this 2.1-km range, but power emission must be limited to 58 dBm/MHz.

Directive takes immediate effect

“The measures shall be adopted by the telecom service providers with immediate effect and would be applicable till the replacement of all aircraft radio altimeter filters is ensured by DGCA,” the department said in its letters to Indian telcos.

Despite the directive, Indian telecom operators recently argued that the frequencies in which they are operating 5G networks are lower than the bands being used by equipment in aiplanes flying in India and most countries across the world.

They argued that the altimeter usually operates around the 4.2-GHz band, which is way higher than the 3.3-3.6 GHz range being used by Indian telcos for 5G.

Indian telcos want tests

The telcos had also requested the DGCA to test if there were any signs of interference, asking them to base their test on a similar test that was done in Europe. However, the DGCA refused to comply with the request.

To comply with the directive, Bharti Airtel has said that it will shut down its 5G services at five airports across the country.

Earlier this year, the US Federal Aviation Administrator (FAA) warned that 5G signals in the C-band could interfere with aircraft altimeter systems. India’s aviation industry has backed the FAA’s view. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has said C-band 5G won’t interfere with airport operations.

The FAA and US telcos have been at loggerheads over the issue for some time, not least because telcos in other markets – such as the EU, UK, Japan, South Korea, China and Australia  – are using C-band spectrum to deploy commercial 5G services. They have claimed that their C-band 5G services were deployed safely in local airports without hindering aircraft operations.

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