Free Trade Zones

FAA lists 50 airports with temporary buffer zones blocking new 5G signals

A JetBlue aircraft prepares for take off with downtown New York City in the background.

James Martin / CNET

The Federal Aviation Administration has released a list of airports that will have temporary buffer zones around them that prohibit new 5G coverage is expected to go live later in January for a six-month period. Meanwhile, the agency and the aviation industry will work to ensure that current aviation equipment is not disrupted by the new frequencies that carriers use to expand their 5G networks.

The list of airports includes some of the largest international hubs in the United States, such as John F. Kennedy International in New York, Los Angeles International, and O’Hare International in Chicago. They include areas where operators plan to activate 5G coverage in the so-called C frequency band on January 19. Traffic volume, the number of low visibility days and geographic location are all taken into account at airports that would need buffer zones, according to an FAA newsroom report on Friday.

For six months after C-band goes live, wireless companies including AT&T and Verizon will turn off transmitters and make other adjustments to the C-band 5G signal in frequencies 3.7-3.98 GHz around airports in these buffer zones. This will prevent them from interfering with aviation equipment operating in the 4.2-4.4 GHz frequencies.

This equipment includes radio altimeters, which provide accurate height readings to aircraft systems, including navigation and collision avoidance. The FAA and the aviation industry are concerned that the C-band signal could interfere with the readings aircraft rely on when landing at airports in bad weather and low visibility.

During the six months that the buffers are active, the FAA will work with airlines and manufacturers to test altimeters operating in the midst of the 5G C-band signal and lift restrictions on aircraft using altimeters that can fly in full. security in these environments. Those that aren’t will be upgraded or replaced, according to an FAA C-Band FAQ page.

Temporary buffers encompass just over a mile around airstrips which completely prohibit the 5G C-band signal, giving planes 20 seconds of signal-less time as they arrive to land.

The wireless industry has a more precise outline for the zones, which will extend 2100 meters in front of and behind the runways, as well as 910 meters on each side. Operators will reduce the C-band signal on a narrower 6,100 meters path in front and behind the runways and limit signal strength above the horizon, according to a document provided to CNET by CTIA, a trade organization representing wireless industry.

Buffer zones are another compromise made by US carriers to ensure that their next C-band service does not interfere with critical aircraft instruments. Verizon and AT&T have delayed their C-band launches by November and even January, as well as the lowering broadcast power levels at national scale. This is the first time we’ve seen a schedule that satisfies both the wireless and aviation industries and agencies, who have been working on a solution to the problem from the FCC. auctioned of C-band frequencies to US operators in February 2020.

The full list of airports that will have buffer zones for six months after January 19 is as follows:

  • Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin, Texas
  • Field Laurence G. Hanscom in Bedford, Massachusetts
  • King County International Airport in Seattle, Washington
  • Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, Alabama
  • Nashville International Airport in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California
  • Akron-Canton Airport in Canton, Ohio
  • Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Dallas Love Field in Dallas
  • Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex
  • Detroit Wayne County Metro Airport in Detroit
  • Ellington Airport in Houston
  • Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey
  • Fresno Yosemite International Airport in Fresno, California
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdal, Florida
  • Bishop Flint International Airport, Michigan
  • Houston William P. Hobby Airport
  • Tweed-New Haven Regional Airport in New Haven, Connecticut
  • Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport
  • Indianapolis International Airport to Indianapolis
  • Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkom, New York
  • New York John F. Kennedy International Airport
  • Harry Reid International Airport Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles International Airport to Los Angeles
  • New York LaGuardia Airport
  • Long Beach Airport in Long Beach, California
  • Kansas City International Airport to Kansas City
  • Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Florida
  • Harrisburg International Airport in Middletown, Pennsylvania
  • Chicago Midway International Airport to Chicago
  • McAllen International Airport in McAllen, Texas
  • Miami International Airport to Miami
  • Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport in Minnesota
  • Ontario International Airport in Ontario, California
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport
  • Paine Field in Snohomish County, Washington
  • Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Florida
  • Philadelphia International Airport to Philadelphia
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix
  • St. PeteClearwater International Airport in Clearwate, Florida
  • Pittsburgh International Airport to Pittsburgh
  • Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Morrisvill, North Carolina
  • Frederick Douglass – Grand Rochester International Airport in Rocheste, New York
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Seattle
  • San Francisco International Airport to San Francisco
  • Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport in San Jose, California
  • John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California
  • Saint-Louis Lambert International Airport in Saint-Louis
  • Syracuse Hancock International Airport in Syracus, New York
  • Teterboro Airport in Teterbor, New Jersey