Why is it important that 5G networks use C-band spectrum?

C-band spectrum is a set of radio waves, also called mid-band spectrum, that are uniquely suited for 5G networks. These radio waves allow 5G networks to deliver high speeds over a wide geographic area—making it possible to provide 5G services in communities across America.

A recent study by Boston Consulting Group estimated that 5G networks will add $1.5 trillion to America’s economy and create 4.5 million new jobs over the next decade, while enabling the development of a variety of new services such as driverless cars and remote healthcare that will transform the way we live and work. There is a limited amount of mid-band spectrum available to power 5G networks, and C-band spectrum is one of the few options available in the United States.

Delaying access to this spectrum has real impacts: every six-month delay in 5G deployment costs our nation’s economy $25 billion in economic benefits over the next decade, risks America’s competitiveness, and jeopardizes our ability to ensure global 5G leadership.

How do we know that it is safe for 5G networks to use C-band spectrum?

Nearly 40 countries are already safely using these and similar radio waves for 5G and other wireless services, at similar power levels. There is no evidence whatsoever of harmful interference with aviation equipment. In fact, in some of these countries, 5G signals use radio waves that are much closer to those used by aviation equipment without causing harmful interference.

In addition, in the United States, signals from military radar systems have for decades used similar radio waves for operations that are 10,000x more powerful than C-band 5G without causing harmful interference.  Likewise, federal ground-to-air systems operate even closer to aviation equipment than C-band 5G will be.

Finally, the Federal Communications Commission—the independent government agency responsible for reviewing the evidence and establishing rules that prevent interference—studied this issue for three years, including submissions by the aviation industry and coordination with federal partners, and adopted a substantial protective barrier that separates 5G C-band signals from aviation signals. This separation is more than twice the size of the separation used in networks that exist today in other countries and twice as large as the barrier requested by some aviation organizations in the FCC record. In fact, initial deployments in the U.S. will have even further separation—four times the amount as seen elsewhere in the world.

The FCC concluded that this separation, along with the technical rules it adopted, is “sufficient to protect aeronautical services” from 5G interference.

Some aviation groups and the FAA have argued that 5G in the C-band could cause harmful interference with aviation equipment. Is this true?

No. All available evidence—including existing 5G networks that use this spectrum in countries around the world and actual flight testing that was conducted on this very issue—show that 5G networks using these radio waves do not interfere with aviation equipment.

What is your response to a study published by RTCA and promoted by aviation groups and the FAA, which claims 5G in the C-band could interfere with aviation equipment?

The study makes assertions that are not supported by any verifiable data and that are completely contradicted by safe, real-world deployments of 5G in the C-band in countries around the world. In addition, the report’s testing methodology is flawed. To cite one example, aviation equipment operating to manufacturer specifications that is already in use today would fail this test—even without 5G operating in the C-band. A full technical analysis that explains these flaws is available on our resources page.