Friday, May 12, 2023

Despite talks, no movement on 5G services at airports

Seven months since Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel started rolling out 5G in India, the impasse over providing the services in and around airports continues despite several meetings between stakeholders.

So far, no timelines have been specified around restoration of 5G and when the altimeters in aeroplanes can be changed, which, telcos say, puts them in a tricky situation as they can’t offer 5G in areas where they are witnessing massive demand.

Officials aware of the details told ET that at the latest meeting held on April 19, representatives from aircraft makers Boeing and Airbus said altimeters must be changed for a permanent solution around 5G connectivity at airports. And for this, a decision needs to be taken by airlines and India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) around purchase orders.

The aircraft manufacturers said they would be able to provide altimeters to countries outside of the US only after December 2023, according to an official present at the meeting.

The DGCA has yet to provide any timelines for retrofitting of altimeters. The aviation regulator, in turn, is believed to have said at the meeting that timelines can be decided only once there is clarity on the availability of the modified altimeters for the Indian fleet, officials said.

The April 19 meeting was attended by representatives of Boeing, Airbus, Airtel, Jio and officials from the DGCA and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

“Boeing has been working with suppliers, regulators, the airlines and telecom companies to ensure long-term stability and help mitigate operational restrictions where possible in an effort to promote the safe co-existence of aviation and 5G environments,” a spokesperson for Boeing India said.

As per preliminary estimates, the number of Boeing aircraft requiring retrofit in India is around 500, while it is roughly 300 for Airbus. However, the Indian carriers need to place orders soon to the two aircraft makers as there are supply chain constraints and carriers in other countries including Brazil and Canada are vying to get the altimeters at the earliest, say industry executives.

12/05/2023 Kiran Rathee/Economic Times

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