5G in India’s airports: all clear for take-off?

5G in India’s airports: all clear for take-off?

While 5G in much of India seems to be rolling out in record time, the same cannot be said of 5G services in and around airports. Could that soon change, however?

As many news outlets in India have reported, the rollout of 5G services in and around India’s airports has been barred due, it seems, to fears that 5G spectrum in the 3300-3670 MHz band may interfere with radio altimeters, which are crucial for aircraft landing in poor visibility conditions. This issue was first raised in the US, after which the Federation of Indian Pilots was among a number of local industry groups that voiced concern.

The aircraft altimeters worrying these groups seem to be those used by older aircraft operating in the 4200-4400MHz band. These are said to have poor out-of-band reception characteristics. 

In November 2022, India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) directed mobile operators not to install any 5G sites in the 3300-3670MHz band within 2.1 kilometres of the runways at airports across the country.

Now the Indian government has decided that the radio altimeters of all old aircraft should be replaced or upgraded by the end of 2024.

This decision has taken a long time, given that it is 16 months since the launch of 5G in India, and that as long ago as January 2023 we reported that the DoT had said it intended to come up with a decision on whether to lift a ban on 5G around airports – after it had carried out a detailed study.

There has been a lot of committee work since then, and some hints that blame should be laid at the door of some overseas altimeter manufacturers and their supposed lack of commitment. However, it does now seem that people living near 124 airports in the country may finally get to use 5G services from January next year.

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