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Our Take: What’s Missing from the 5G vs. Airlines Debate? EMI Shielding

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    The rollout of 5G across the United States has gone pretty poorly so far. That’s because it sparked a huge conflict between the telecom giants and the airline giants. What was supposed to be a technical update to cell service became a clash of the titans that left planes grounded and 5G masts sitting unactivated.

    The concern is that 5G signals could interfere with sensitive instruments onboard airplanes, leading to serious safety concerns. Whether that concern is valid is currently under question, but in any case, there is a relatively simple solution: a well-developed plan to shield instruments from electromagnetic interference (EMI).

    In this post, the Modus Advanced team shares our take on what’s been happening with the 5G rollout and how technology that already exists could solve the problem. Read on to learn more.

    Worried about 5G signals interfering with your device? There’s no need to panic. Modus Advanced can help you design the perfect EMI shield to keep your device working perfectly. Contact us for help.

    What Happened

    The 5G rollout has been on the horizon for a while now. 5G technology is capable of producing cellular data speeds that are 600 times faster than 4G networks. A technological improvement like that made the rollout virtually inevitable.

    But adopting 5G across the country meant creating a network of masts that could accommodate the higher frequencies — which can be even more stringent than those used by the military in some cases — of 5G. The cellular carriers invested billions in creating the network.

    Those higher frequencies might interfere with sensitive instruments like altimeters that help pilots navigate and land their planes. In late January, when telecom companies were switching on 5G masts in 46 major U.S. markets, airline carriers started to realize the potential for problems, and Emirates, Air India, British Airways and others grounded planes over the issue. 

    The airlines asked AT&T and Verizon to delay rolling out 5G near airports until the issue is resolved. The telecom giants agreed, but they weren’t happy about it. 

    The problem on both sides, it appears, is that no one is absolutely certain how 5G will affect sensitive aircraft instruments. It is true that the frequencies used for 5G are similar to those used to operate aviation instruments like altimeters. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and various governments and private companies around the world have raised concerns, but the evidence supporting a definite problem with interference is, up to this point, unclear.

    What Needs to Happen

    We can’t have doubts when we send passenger planes 30,000 feet into the air. That much is clear. But we need to answer the question: Will 5G interfere with aviation equipment

    And if so, how do we prevent that?

    Some of us are old enough to remember some of the problems that started popping up when cell phones first became mainstream. People reported problems with electric wheelchairs, pacemakers and hearing aids — with the pacemaker issue being potentially deadly. What was the solution back then? EMI shielding.

    Engineers and designers became aware of the potential interference with these devices, and they innovated with EMI shielding materials to prevent the issues. And that worked really well.

    That’s likely what will need to happen to solve the 5G vs. airlines showdown. The airlines — and very likely the public — need some reassurances, and effective EMI shields surrounding 5G devices and sensitive aviation instruments will likely provide those reassurances.

    Of course, it’s not practical to imagine a world in which we ground planes and delay cellular network progress until every single jet has been outfitted with dozens more EMI gaskets. But it is practical to begin asking these questions and planning for the future. When cell phones were causing potentially deadly problems with pacemakers, doctors told patients not to keep their phones in their shirt pockets. Today, many pacemakers have the proper EMI shields in place to render this issue a moot point.

    Modus Advanced: Solving Today’s Engineering Problems

    It is a shame that the rollout of 5G technology has caused problems and conflict, and the Modus team sincerely hopes that everything is resolved soon. We’re sure it will be, and we’re sure the eventual permanent resolution is going to involve EMI shielding.

    That’s because an EMI shield made with the right materials and manufacturing method is the way to keep any part, device or instrument protected from radio frequency interference. We’ve been doing this a long time, so we’ve seen how well it works and perfected the art of EMI shielding gaskets and other parts.

    If you need to protect any device or part from EMI, whether it’s from 5G towers or not, our team is here to help. We can advise at every stage of the design process and be your comprehensive manufacturing partner, from concept to prototype to production. 

    Want to work with Modus? We want to hear from you. Give us a call at 925-960-8700 or contact us online today.

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