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Govt asks telecom providers not to install 5G base stations near airports

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has sent a letter to telecom providers Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone to immediately refrain from installing C-band 5G base stations within 2.1 km range of Indian airports as C-Band 5G issues with the aircraft’s radio (radar) altimeters, which they rely on during takeoff and landing, and to help avoid crashing into mountains.

The DoT letter, seen by IANS, states that the telecom service providers (TSPs) are being advised that “in the area, 2,100 meters from both ends of the runway and 910 meters from the centerline of the runway of Indian airports will not have 5G / IMT base stations in the 3,300-3,670 MHz”.

“The base station, node or repeater installed in the periphery of 540 meters around the area, the maximum power must be limited to 58 dBm/MHz in the range of 3,300-3,670 MHz,” the letter said.

Airtel has installed 5G base stations in airports in Nagpur, Bengaluru, New Delhi, Guwahati and Pune, while Jio has installed 5G base stations in the Delhi-NCR area.

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According to the DoT letter, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has provided the buffer and safety zone outline and requested that mitigation measures be taken in the implementation of C-band 5G spectrum, in and around the airport areas in view of the safety concerns for aircraft operation .

The DoT asked telecom providers to ensure that 5G base stations are tilted down such that the 5G emissions do not interfere with radio altimeters.

The new rule will apply until the replacement of all aircraft radio altimeter filters is assured by the DGCA.

“It is expected that the Directorate-General for Aviation (DGCA) will ensure the above proactively, time-bound and energetically. The DGCA is requested to inform DOT once the above task is completed so that the restrictions can be lifted,” the DoT letter said.

As high-speed 5G wireless networks roll out around the world, pilots in the US are also regularly reporting problems with the plane’s radio (radar) altimeters.

According to an analysis of reports from IEEE Spectrum (the world’s leading technical magazine) to NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), complaints about altimeters malfunctioning and failing surged after the rollout of high-speed 5G wireless networks earlier this year, that use similar C-band frequencies.

In January of this year, at least three flights over Tennessee in the US simultaneously experienced altimeter errors that made it “impossible to maintain the assigned altitude,” according to one of the pilots.

One jet plane completely lost its autopilot and reportedly had fire engines waiting for it to land.

According to the report, a passenger jet approaching New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport in February received erratic low-altitude warnings while flying below 300 feet.

In March, a commercial jet landing on autopilot at Los Angeles International Airport suddenly went into an aggressive descent just 100 feet above the ground. All three incidents — and many more this year — were linked by pilots to problems with the plane’s radio altimeters, the report said.

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