New FAA Warning Says 5G Technology Could Potentially Interfere With Airplane Safety

Time to turn your phone on airplane mode.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sent a special information bulletin on Tuesday alerting manufacturers, operators, and pilots to the potential dangers of 5G telecommunications.

In the bulletin, the FAA explained, "there have not yet been proven reports of harmful interference due to wireless broadband operations internationally," however, it added, officials may need to take action to address potential interference with aircraft electronics due to the rise of 5G.

An overhead view of an airplane sitting on the runway, waiting for take off
Jaromir Chalabala/EyeEm/Getty Images

According to Reuters, the FAA shared on Tuesday operators "should be prepared for the possibility that interference from 5G transmitters and other technology could cause certain safety equipment to malfunction, requiring them to take mitigating action that could affect flight operations." The FAA added, there is also the potential of the "degradation to the capabilities of safety systems and other equipment that depend on radio altimeters, particularly during low-altitude operations."

As for just what that mitigating action may look like, the FAA noted in its release that pilots continue to ask passengers to turn off portable electronic devices equipped with 5G, or switch them to airplane mode during the flight.

The FAA also encouraged manufacturers to continue testing for 5G interference and should "determine what design changes are necessary to remediate."

FAA Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims told Reuters his agency shares "the deep concern about the potential impact to aviation safety resulting from interference to radar altimeter performance from 5G network operations in the C band."

In response to the news, the wireless trade group CTIA told reporters that 5G networks can safely use C-band spectrum "without causing harmful interference to aviation equipment." The group additionally noted that there are already "numerous active 5G networks using this spectrum band in 40 countries." Still, it's best to just heed the call and pop your phone into airplane mode when you're asked to, just in case.

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