FAA worries new 5G wireless service could interfere with aviation safety

The Federal Aviation Administration has expressed concern that 5G cellular technology could interfere with aviation.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the FAA is drafting a memo to pilots warning them of the potential interference between the cockpit safety systems, and automated systems, and a 5G wireless service that is set to go live in December. 

"The cockpit systems, commonplace in modern air travel, help planes land in poor weather, prevent crashes and avoid midair collisions," the outlet reported. "The FAA has determined that if commercial pilots aren’t able to use the features, that could lead to flight cancellations, delays or diversions in 46 of the country’s largest metropolitan areas where the towers are located, these officials said."

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The administration has issued a response in regards to the article. 

"The FAA continues to engage with other agencies so that aviation and the newest generation of 5G cellular technology can safely coexist," the administration said in a statement to FOX Television Stations Sunday. 

"Safety is the FAA's top priority," the statement continued. 

5G is a new technical standard for wireless networks — the fifth, naturally — that promises faster speeds; less lag, or "latency," when connecting to the network; and the ability to connect many devices to the internet without bogging it down. 5G networks will ideally be better able to handle more users, lots of sensors and heavy traffic.

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Before we can all use it, wireless companies and phone makers have to upgrade. Phones need new chips and radio antennas to work with the new network.

There’s a considerable amount of hype over the promise of 5G. Industry groups say it will promote smart cities by connecting sensor networks that could manage traffic and quickly identify streetlight outages. 5G could connect self-driving cars and fuel new applications in virtual and augmented reality. Its high-speed connections could enable better remote surgery and other telemedicine, help companies automate their factories and offer businesses dedicated high-speed internet lanes.

A true U.S. mobile rollout began in 2019, but significantly faster networks are still sparse. It will take a few years to go national, and even then, more rural areas of the country will not be covered in the "millimeter wave" frequencies that promise the highest data speeds and capacities, said Michael Thelander, CEO of wireless consultancy Signals Research Group.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.