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Ghanaian Aviation Experts Urge Collaboration for Safe 5G Network Rollout

The country is looking to avoid safety risks that can come with 5G interference.

A British Airways 747-400 lands in Las Vegas (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Aviation experts in Ghana have called for closer collaboration between the National Communications Authority (NCA) and the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) in the rollout of 5G network services. According to the Ghana News Agency (GNA), the 5G network is expected to be launched by the third quarter of this year, ushering mobile phone users into a new era of digital connectivity.

During a two-day Aeronautical Information Services (AIS) Stakeholder Engagement held at the new GCAA head office at Kotoka International Airport, GCAA AIS stakeholders addressed concerns about the 5G network rollout in Ghana. The workshop, themed “Charting the Digital Future: Collaborative Solutions for Enhanced Aeronautical Information Quality,” took place beginning Thursday, June 27, 2024.

The panelists highlighted that the 5G network operates in a spectrum of electromagnetic waves, which could initially affect Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance (CNS) infrastructure. They stated, “We communicate using signals, navigation equipment also uses the same signal or a similar spectrum, initially, depending on how it is deployed, it may affect this infrastructure and what we will do as AIS is that we will rely on CNS to give us information concerning any interference to these CNS infrastructures and we of course will publish such information. If it calls for a NOTAM, we will publish that, if it calls for changes they (CNS) will do that and inform us so we publish that.”

The experts further emphasized the need for closer collaboration between the NCA and the GCAA to ensure a safe rollout of the technology. They noted, “Definitely the CAA has a say when these networks are lodged. They (GCAA) would like to do their safety assessment to see if it (5G) won’t affect their existing infrastructure in the first place. So the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority will have a say, of course the National Communications Authority also has a say in that.”

Potential Safety Risk

The deployment of 5G spectrum services poses a potential risk of interference with radio altimeters, which are critical for aircraft landing and safety systems. Radio altimeters provide highly accurate information about an aircraft’s height above the ground, informing other safety equipment such as navigation instruments, terrain awareness, and collision-avoidance systems.

A 2020 study by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA), a private, not-for-profit association specializing in communications, navigation, surveillance, and air traffic management (CNS/ATM) issues, highlighted the risk. It found that both 5G base stations and user equipment operating in the 3.7–4.2 GHz frequency band presented a risk of harmful interference to radar altimeters, which operate in the 4.2–4.4 GHz range. This raised concerns about the proximity of auctioned frequencies to this range, with potential safety implications for all aircraft types, including commercial transport airplanes, business jets, regional aircraft, and helicopters.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has emphasized the importance of considering public and aviation safety when enabling cellular broadband and 5G services near radio altimeter frequency bands. In a state letter from March 2021, former ICAO Secretary General Fang Liu (2015-2021) urged administrations to prioritize safety in decisions related to 5G network deployment. Additionally, during a Frequency Management Workshop in Casablanca, June 6-10, 2022, ICAO called for measures to reduce the impact of 5G installations on aircraft movement.

 

Victor Shalton

Author

  • Victor Shalton

    Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Victor’s love for aviation goes way back to when he was 11-years-old. Living close to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, he developed a love for planes and he even recalls aspiring to be a future airline executive for Kenya Airways. He also has a passion in the arts and loves writing and had his own aviation blog prior to joining AirlineGeeks. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration at DeKUT and aspiring to make a career in a more aviation-related course.

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