Retrofit cost to avoid 5G interference will be $637 mn: IATA

The cost to retrofit airplane altimeters in order to avoid susceptible to 5G wireless interference will be at least $637 million, International Air Transport Association (IATA) said.
Kazakhstan mobile networkIATA, which represents more than 100 carriers that fly to the United States, said in comments filed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the costs would be far higher than the $26 million estimated by the agency.

The group warned last week many airlines are at risk of not meeting the deadlines. It said on Thursday: “One can expect flight disruptions post the March and July deadlines unless the FAA and the U.S. government take a different approach to this interference issue.”

The FAA proposed in January requiring passenger and cargo aircraft in the United States have 5G C-Band-tolerant radio altimeters or approved filters by early 2024. The agency said on Thursday it will evaluate all comments.

Concerns that 5G service could interfere with airplane altimeters, which give data on a plane’s height above the ground and are crucial for bad-weather landing, led to disruptions at some U.S. airports last year involving international carriers.

Verizon Communications and AT&T in June agreed to delay some C-Band 5G use until July 2023 as air carriers work to retrofit airplanes to ensure they will not face interference.

IATA said the costs are higher per plane than FAA estimated and said it should include the costs of 6,000 planes already retrofitted and non-U.S. registered planes that will be impacted.

“Operators are being compelled to invest millions of dollars to retrofit their US-bound fleet while being reliant on the goodwill of companies that refused to accept that 5G C-band interference even existed in the first place,” IATA said.

Wireless carries spent more than $80 billion on the C-Band 5G spectrum, including $52.9 billion by Verizon in auction and clearing costs.

On Feb. 2, IATA said many airlines will not meet retrofit deadlines, citing supply chain issues, certification delays, and unavoidable logistical challenges.