Disputes among the U.S. airline industry and federal regulators surrounding the rollout of 5G has delayed efforts to deploy the latest technology upgrades for wireless communications.

“The bottom line is that passenger safety must always be prioritized, so until the question of interference is resolved it is likely that we will see carriers not deploy 5G in proximity to airports,” says Luiz DaSilva, executive director of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative and professor of cybersecurity at Virginia Tech.

DaSilva says the two regulatory agencies involved - the Federal Communications Commission (in charge of wireless spectrum) and the Federal Aviation Administration (in charge of aviation) – could have worked together better to avoid the current situation. 

“The wireless industry follows regulations in operating in licensed spectrum defined by the FCC. There is currently a disagreement regarding what parameters of deployment, like cell tower height, frequency band, and power levels, avoid interference with existing aircraft equipment,” says DaSilva.

DaSilva explains that the current concern has to do with some of the spectrum that has been licensed by the FCC for deployment of 5G. Wireless devices are designed to operate in specific frequency bands. If these bands overlap, devices can interfere with each other.

“Airlines are concerned that operation in some of those bands may affect some devices used in aviation, such as altimeters,” says DaSilva. “There is a lot of disagreement on whether there would in fact be interference.”

DaSilva says the wireless industry has already invested trillions of dollars in this technology and 5G will be a game changer for the wireless industry.

“5G enables the next generation of mobile services, providing faster data rates, low delay and high reliability, which can drive a whole new set of mission-critical applications supported by cellular connectivity.”

About DaSilva
Luiz DaSilva is the inaugural executive director of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative. He is internationally recognized for leadership and innovation in wireless communications and networks research. He is also the Bradley Professor of Cybersecurity in Virginia Tech’s Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a Belgian beer lover in an IPA phase. The Commonwealth Cyber Initiative is establishing Virginia as a global center of excellence at the intersection of security, autonomous systems, and data.

Schedule interview
To schedule an interview with DaSilva, contact Michele McDonald at mmcdonald@vt.edu or 703-201-3454; Shannon Andrea at sandrea@vt.edu or 703-399-9494.

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