Telecommunications operators in Nigeria have said that Nigeria will not experience any flight disruption when 5G is launched as is currently being experienced in the United States. According to them, the current situation in the U.S is peculiar and also creates an opportunity for Nigeria to learn to deploy right.
With the successful auction of the 3.5GHz spectrum last December, the two operators that won the licences, MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communications are expected to deploy 5G later this year. Recent reports of flights cancellations in the U.S. have sparked fears that the Nigerian Aviation industry may also run into a problem with 5G.
However, speaking with TechTrackAfrica, the President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) Engr. Ikechukwu Nnamani said what is happening in the U.S. has not happened in other countries that have deployed the 5G technology. According to him, there are over 40 countries with full 5G deployment that are not having any problems with the airline industry.
“The problem with the U.S. case is the frequency they are using that is very close to what the airlines use for landing, the power of their antennas, and how the antennas are pointed up instead of downwards. All that need to be corrected in the US and as long as Nigeria avoids the same, we should not have any problems,” he said.
Also speaking, the Chief Executive Officer of Jidaw Systems, Mr. Jide Awe, said with proper planning and effective communications with all stakeholders, Nigeria would not have any problem with 5G. He noted that while the rollout of 5G service could interfere with aircraft technology that measures altitude for certain carriers, what is happening in the United States is a rollout planning issue.
“It's a question of ensuring 5G rollout is done in a safe and effective manner with regard to aviation in terms of installation of 5G cellular antennas taking airports into consideration. This can easily be carried out and has already been done safely and effectively in about 40 countries. This is what is affecting flights to the US and causing flight cancellations to some US airports not that 5G is inherently unsafe.
“It is incredible that airlines and other aviation industry players in the US are just learning about the possible risks and dangers. Poor planning and lack of awareness within the aviation industry lead to uncertainty about disruptions and safety risks from the 5G rollout. This is why stakeholder involvement should be prioritized in Telecom and ICT projects and implementations,” Awe said.
Reacting to the recent restriction notice issued by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), restricting the use of radio altimeters in some locations, for the planned deployment of 5G network in C-Band spectrum, the Chairman of the association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) Engr. Gbenga Adebayo said even in Europe where 5G has been rolled out, telecoms operators were allowed to deploy 5G services around airports.
“In Nigeria, there has not been any industry position on the perceived interference of 5G network on aviation operations. Studies are ongoing and I do not think it is something that we should worry about in Nigeria, the reason being that mobile devices are built with certain intelligence to protect any form of interference on aviation operations. The kind of firewalls on aviation facilities that protect aviation signals are so high, just the way it is with any mission-critical sectors of the Nigerian economy,” Adebayo said.
In the US, restrictions were part of a series of FAA directives, which could also see some flights blocked completely, as the regulator and US aviation industry are at loggerheads regarding potential interference from 5G services in the C-Band.
Radio altimeters use spectrum in the 4.2GHz to 4.4GHz band, and telecoms operators in the US are on the brink of initial launches in the 3.7GHz to 3.98GHz range, after being delayed twice, due to concerns over interference with the altimeters.