After a delay of years and amidst a great deal of anticipation, India has finally begun to roll out 5G networks in the country.
The second largest wireless market in the world will see the next-generation cellular connectivity rolled out by service operators in each town by the end of next year.
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However, the rollout is still in its initial phase and telecom operators were instructed last week by New Delhi that 5G infrastructure should not be established close to airports, as it could interfere with flight operations.
The government body that oversees telecom operations in India is called the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
It issued an order to telecom operators Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio to keep their 5G infrastructure at least 1.3 miles, or 2.1 kilometers away from airports in the South Asian nation.
In addition, all three operators were also told to restrict their installed equipment’s power emission after the given distance as well.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had raised concerns back in September that resulted in the restrictions that have now been enforced.
The aviation department suspected that there would be some interference with flight altimeters by the 5G networks, which operate on the C-Band.
This instrument is of the utmost importance because it ensures that pilots are able to maintain the right altitude during the flight.
Similar concerns had also been raised by the US airline industry back in January when Verizon and AT&T had also acted their 5G networks on the same spectrum.
The Federal Aviation Administration had said in June that stakeholders in the wireless and aviation industries had taken steps that would prevent disruption in commercial flights by 5G.
It had then granted permission to Verizon and AT&T to continue offering their services at some airports where the risk of interference in flight schedules was the lowest.
Not long after concerns of network disruption had come to light in the US, Ashwini Vaishnaw, the telecom minister in India, had assured the industry in February that they would not face any such issues.
He had stated in a press conference that the altimeter frequency in the US, especially in older planes, was similar to the one being used for offering 5G services.
He added that the frequency that Indian flight altimeters were using was not close to the frequencies in use for 5G services.
Chairman of the Indian Telecom Regulatory Authority, P D Vaghela had also said the same in January. He said that they would not face any problems due to the 5G rollout.
After the telecom department’s direction, the telecom operators in India are now working on a series of steps.
So far, Airtel has already deployed its 5G infrastructure for offering connectivity services in the country’s four airports, while a similar move is expected from Jio in the next few days.
However, the restriction means that both Jio and Airtel would have to re-evaluate and Airtel would also have to switch off its radios for now.
Experts have said that it is likely that consumers who are close to airports will not be able to use 5G services on their devices.
This would not have an impact in areas where airports are located at a distance from residences.