5G Scare Band: Why Are Airlines Cancelling US Flights?


C- band is a specific range of frequencies in the radio frequency (RF) spectrum, which is divided among ranges from very low frequencies (vlf) to extremely high frequencies (ehf). Each band has a set upper and lower frequency limit. Because a band is valuable, it is regulated by national agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US.
C-band, a radio frequency band between 3.7 and 4.2GHz. “C-band is not a new frequency, but a part of mid-band,” Pulkit Pandey, Associate Principal Analyst at Gartner, told. “Every country has their own set of rules in accordance to which the spectrum rollout is planned.”C-band is already in use across the world, making it the most popular 5G band. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), C-band is divided into three subsets: band n77, band n78, and band n79. While the EU uses n78 which is in the range of 3.3 to 3.8GHz, the US will use n77, a larger band stretches from 3.3 to 4.2GHz. Japan already uses band n77. All major flagship smartphones including the Galaxy S21 series, Galaxy Fold lineup, iPhone 13 and Google Pixel 6 support C-band in the US.

What are Airlines Concerned About?

Airlines are worried that the C-band 5G will interfere with aircraft safety systems. Radio altimeters, in particular, use high frequency radio waves (between 4.2 – 4.4 gigahertz) to measure a plane’s distance from the ground. The issue initially appeared to impact the Boeing 777, a long-range and wide-body aircraft that is widely used for international flights. This is why Air India and other major airlines, which use this aircraft on its US routes, had temporarily cancelled certain flights. However, Boeing and the FAA have now given the aircraft clearance to operate in the US, even in low visibility conditions.
Other aircraft models with approved altimeters are:

  • Boeing 717, 737, 747, 757, 767
  • MD-10/-11
  • Airbus A300, A310, A319, A320, A321, A330, A340, A350, A380

The FAA estimates that 62% of the US commercial fleet will operate without 5G interference. Aircraft not mentioned in this list are yet to be cleared by the authority. In most countries, the 5G band occupies a lower range than in the US. For instance, in the European Union 5G frequencies sit in the 3.4 – 3.8 GHz range, while in Korea they occupy the range of 3.42 – 3.7 GHz.