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Canadian airports not concerned about 5G rollout affecting flights

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WATCH: As companies roll out new 5G technology, there are concerns it could cause issues for airlines. Ian Duffy looks at whether these concerns exist in Saskatchewan – Jan 20, 2022

While consumers are thrilled about the rollout of 5G technology, some airlines in the United States aren’t jumping for joy, with various flights cancelled across the country due to concerns about the latest mobile network technology.

“There’s been some research done and the frequencies that 5G operate on may have some interference with the radio altimeters on aircraft. Radio altimeters are essentially used to measure distance from the ground and in a variety of systems to keep it safe when pilots can’t see as well in lower visibility situations,” said Regina Airport Authority customer experience and marketing manager, Justin Reves.

Read more: Canada eyeing 5G’s impact on ‘critical’ aircraft tech amid U.S. warnings

But as companies like AT&T and Verizon clash with airlines in the U.S., here north of the border, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and the Radio Advisory Board of Canada have already put in mitigating safeguards against these concerns according to SaskTel External Communications Manager, Greg Jacobs.

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“Earlier this year they actually implemented interim guidelines that would prevent any Canadian wireless service provider from using 3500 megahertz spectrum within a particular area of the airport.”

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5G providers say they’ll provide buffer zone away from airports as concerns raised – Jan 19, 2022

In Canada, the 5G rollout strategy is a collaborative effort between multiple industries.

“They’re working in tandem with Transport Canada to mitigate any safety concerns in the short term. So what they’ve done is they’ve put in place some exclusion or restricted areas where you can’t put in 5G towers so they don’t interfere with aircrafts which are landing,” said Reves.

Read more: Will 5G cause a ‘catastrophic’ aviation crisis for U.S. airlines? Here’s what we know

So what exactly is 5G?

Verizon defines 5G as “the fifth generation wireless technology. It can provide higher speed, lower latency and greater capacity than 4G LTE networks.”

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The power of certain fifth generation frequencies is why flight attendants always remind you about the airplane mode feature on your smartphone

“Departure and landing, that’s why they’re sticky about having your phone in an airplane mode and that’s why you’re allowed to use Wi-Fi on a plane. That’s not the concern. It’s the cellular modems in the phone that have a potential to interfere with aircraft systems. So that’s why they want them in airplane mode,” Reves pointed out.

SaskTel began its 5G rollout in December of 2021 and hopes to have most of Regina and Saskatoon covered in the spring with the new technology.

Read more: SaskTel begins deployment of 5G wireless network

Stakeholders say the safety conversation is ongoing.

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“SaskTel, our industry partners and other are continuing to have conversations with ISED Canada and the Radio Advisory Board of Canada to see if there is some kind of technical solution that can be implemented on wireless networks or can be implemented in airplanes that would prevent any concerns with those interference therefore allowing for wider use of that particular spectrum,” said Jacobs.

Reves is confident Canadians shouldn’t don’t need to worry about this issue in their country.

“At airports here in Canada at least we aren’t concerned about people’s safety today but we want to ensure going forward that we can rollout 5G safely for everyone but keep everyone safe in the process of doing that.”

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