C-band could create new use cases for businesses. But do partners actually want to sell 5G?
Business customers gained access to a crucial component of 5G networking on Wednesday amid concerns over how the 5G rollout impacts airplanes.
AT&T and Verizon both switched on 5G services that use “C-band” spectrum, two weeks after pausing the deployment amid an outcry from airlines and regulators about how the service could interfere with flights. However, both wireless providers agreed not to switch on the service in “buffer zones” in close proximity to certain airports.
AT&T and Verizon have already deployed 5G services using mmWave, also known as high-band, spectrum, but C-band, which is part of the mid-band spectrum, provides a more consistent mix of geographical coverage and speed.
Max Silber, MetTel‘s vice president of mobility and IoT, said business mobile users with 5G-enabled phones will see improved network access and speeds.
“Businesses have lagged in the deployment of 5G capable phones because they didn’t really see the benefit of a slightly faster network compared to 4G LTE. 5G C-band will significantly improve network access and speed, in some cases as much as 10 times over LTE,” Silber told Channel Futures. “That makes for a strong business case to enable connectivity for work-from-home employees and verticals with large field forces like health care, trucking and field services.”
Channel partners and analysts agree that the 5G expansion helps move the technology into more actionable customer use cases.
Despite the eagerness of mobile operators to fire up C-band spectrum, aviation companies and regulators have warned that C-band can interfere with a plane’s radio altimeter (which it uses to measure altitude). Indeed, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it raised the issue as early as 2015.
A lead pilot working off Boeing Field in Seattle told Channel Futures that his crew has already experienced problems due to C-band. He explained that while older airplanes may experience minimal issues, more advanced planes that use a fly-by-wire system “get rocked.”
“This is a big problem. 5G C-band needs to be shut off immediately until we understand its effects,” the pilot said. “… Airplanes go through years of certification testing to simulate all different kinds of scenarios but in this case we have done zero testing. It’s all by the seat of our pants.”
Verizon and AT&T have protested that C-band spectrum has worked near airports in 40 other countries, including China and South Korea.
“We have voluntarily agreed to temporarily defer turning on a limited number of towers around certain airport runways as we continue to work with the aviation industry and the FAA to provide further information about our 5G deployment, since they have not utilized the two years they’ve had to responsibly plan for this deployment. We are frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner,” an AT&T spokesperson said.
The FAA on Wednesday announced that its new approvals allowed approximately 62% of the U.S. commercial fleet to make low-visibility landings at C-band adjacent airports. The FAA has cleared five different types of altimeters. This news is a development from Jan. 5, when the agency said that 88 airports would not have been available for such landings.
Jason Leigh is research manager for mobility and 5G at IDC. He emphasized that the airport snafu has not paused the rollout of 5G — only the rollout of 5G “super close” to the airports.
“By and large, they’re still building out the spectrum. They’re installing the infrastructure. It’s in place,” Leigh told Channel Futures. “It’s simply a matter of when we get to turn these radios on?”
Leigh initially thought this issue would find a quick resolution when it first arose; however, he said the wireless providers and their counterparts in aviation will need to work out an agreement over time.
Christopher Whitaker, who leads Telarus‘ mobility practice, agreed that …