As 5G auction continues, Pentagon turns to safety planning


WASHINGTON — The Defense Department will focus on preventing interference to aviation instruments rather than trying to stop the Federal Communications Commission from auctioning C-band spectrum used for 5G communication, officials tell Defense News.

The Pentagon’s decision comes despite industry’s concerns about the functionality of a key aviation technology, which led to a Dec. 1 memo from the head of the Federal Aviation Administration and the number two at the Department of Transportation requesting the FCC pause the sale. The letter was sent after an aviation trade group found that 5G operations could cause harmful interference to radar altimeters, which are used by civil, military and commercial airplanes and helicopters to measure the distance between the aircraft and the ground.

But rather than push back at the FCC, Pentagon officials believe their energies are best spent focused on studying how the deployment of 5G networks throughout U.S. metropolitan areas will impact military aircraft and putting in place a strategy to mitigate any safety concerns, said Alan Burke, the Pentagon’s chair for the interagency Aviation Cyber Initiative Task Force.

“The approach should be not on trying to slow down 5G metro deployment, but speeding up development and testing of mitigations that can serve as an interim gap until avionics manufacturers can harden their systems,” Burke said during a Jan. 7 interview.

“The longer-term challenge is going to be making — not just radar altimeters — but avionics systems that are resilient to out-of-band interference, understanding what that interference is and what mitigations are required.”

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