Telecom operators said the situation in the United States (US) fifth-generation (5G) spectrum allocation and the aviation industry in Nigeria are dissimilar.
The group said, acting under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), it understood the concerns that industry stakeholders and customers have expressed concerning the ongoing debate in the US over the risk of interference between 5G networks and aviation equipment.
ALTON said while the issues being discussed are highly technical, it is important to ensure they are explained and understood in the simplest possible terms and highlight the major differences between the situation in the US and the structures in place in Nigeria.
ALTON Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, explained in a statement. “The context in Nigeria is different. The guard band that exists between the spectrum frequencies allocated by the NCC (Nigerian Communications Commission) for 5G services and those allocated to the aviation industry remains in the region of 400megahertz (MHz), in line with the guidelines instituted by the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC), the government agency responsible for sectoral allocation of spectrum and the NCC.
“This means that there is no greater risk of interference with 5G networks than there is with any of the existing transmissions taking place in the frequencies adjacent to those used by radio-altimeters.”
According to him, mobile networks, just like radio, TV, and other broadcast services, operate using bands of the spectrum (frequency ranges) allocated by the government to allow the transmission of different services. These spectrum bands are deliberately structured to prevent interference between them by ensuring that what is called a ‘guard band’ exists between the frequencies.
“The simplest way of understanding this is to use the radio station example. When trying to tune in to a specific station, you will find that you may pick up some of the transmission on either side of the exact frequency for that radio station. This is because radio transmissions are particularly likely to ‘overspill’ into space on either side of the transmission frequency that is being used.
This same concept pertains to all transmissions and is why guard bands are put in place. They are unused spectrum frequencies on either side of the allocated frequency for transmission, which ‘guard’ against the overspill.
“With the advancement in wireless technologies evidenced by the introduction of 4G and 5G wireless technologies, the extent of the potential ‘overspill’ of the transmission has reduced, lowering the risk of interference. Because of this, the guard band was reduced to 220MHz in the USA, creating more space for the allocation of frequencies for 5G services. This is the primary reason for concern in the American aviation industry.
“They believe that in a worst-case scenario, the outdated radio-altimeters, which ‘overspill’ significantly, could pick up the 5G network signals spectrum, impacting the accuracy of the altitude calculation. However, media reports indicate that the American communications industry opines that extensive testing reveals no evidence to suggest that the aviation industry’s safety will be compromised in a real operating condition.”
Adebayo said, “While we fully understand why the suggestion of risk to the aviation industry is so emotive for so many Nigerians, ALTON is fully committed to working with the NFMC, the NCC, and other relevant regulatory agencies towards providing as much clarity as is required to ensure that Nigerians’ have the information they need to analyze and understand these issues properly.”