Ottawa stuns telecommunications with a surprising announcement that Canadians living near airports are not getting full 5G service

If you recently purchased an expensive 5G-ready smartphone but live close to an airport, you may be in no luck.

To the great surprise of the telecommunications industry, the federal government recently announced plans for new restrictions on 5G service near most major airports that could deprive thousands of a true 5G experience.

Canada’s telecommunications spent $ 9 billion. On acquiring 5G spectrum licenses in July, and Telus Corp. says the restrictions, announced just two weeks after the auction ended, could reduce the value of its $ 2 billion purchase. With $ 100 million.

“Telus was very surprised when, just a week after making a multi-billion dollar commitment, it found that the proposed technical changes would impair a significant amount of the spectrum it won at auction,” the company said in a comment. from 2 September. Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED).

In a separate application, Telus said “and the mobile industry as a whole” was “surprised” by the implications of the policy.

The government said it was imposing the restrictions because of concerns about possible interference between these airwaves – which are known as spectrum and carry wireless communication signals – and certain aviation navigation tools.

ISED, which also conducted the spectrum auction, said on August 6 that it would hold a brief consultation and then impose new restrictions that would apply to airports where automatic landing is allowed.

But Telus claims that the restrictions are more drastic than the precautions taken in other countries.

In the case of Toronto Pearson International Airport, the restrictions will cover a wide area around the runways themselves – where 5G base stations will not be permitted – plus two long-haul routes from Etobicoke to Brampton and two more from Downsview to Mississauga. In the longer distances, there will be limits on power consumption, which may affect network performance.

The federal government has proposed exclusion zones (red) around airport runways where 5G base stations are not allowed plus protection zones (purple) where 5G services face restrictions.

ISED said the restrictions are necessary because there is a possibility that radio signals from 5G equipment on the new frequency spectrum could interfere with the operation of altimeters used in automatic flight guidance systems.

5G technology is expected to offer faster download speeds and carry more data, as well as connect a wide range of devices from autonomous cars to smart-city sensors.

Telus said the restrictions will hurt mobile phone users who live near airports and want to get 5G service and hinder the development of new technologies at warehouses, production facilities and hotels that often surround airports.

“(The proposed restrictions) will hamper the ability of wireless operators to deliver the promise of 5G connectivity to these industries,” Telus said.

Canada’s three major wireless companies, Telus, BCE Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc., began implementing early versions of 5G services in some cities last year.

But 5G technology will use a mix of different frequencies, and the airwaves purchased in the latest auction — which is in the 3,500 megahertz frequency range — are seen as crucial to improving service and expanding coverage.

Many leading wireless companies around the world have used this type of spectrum for 5G service, and equipment manufacturers make networking equipment designed for it.

Radio altimeters on aircraft operate in the nearby 4,200- to 4,400-MHz frequency band.

In an email statement, ISED spokesman Sean Benmor told Star that spectrum regulators around the world have evaluated studies showing “possible interference from flexible use of 5G operations in the 3,500-MHz band.”

“Some countries, such as France and Japan, have already implemented mitigation measures, while others are studying the issue,” Benmor said. He added that ISED published a bulletin in March – several months before the spectrum auction – commits to examining the issue and warns that rules for 5G operation in the new spectrum band could be developed.

Telus maintains that it was not prepared for the limits the government has now proposed, saying other countries have decided on smaller “guard zones” between the frequency at which altimeters operate and the frequency at which 5G services are allowed.

It said US regulators stated that a 220 MHz watch band “would be sufficient to protect the needs of the aviation industry”, while Canada is proposing a buffer between 550 MHz and 700 MHz.

Telus said the watch zones in Australia and Japan are 200 MHz and 100 MHz respectively.

Telus did not comment beyond its formal comments on the hearing, and Bell and Rogers declined to comment before an Oct. 15 deadline to submit further submissions to ISED. The government initially requested comments before August 23, but moved that date back after receiving several requests for more time.

“The measures may affect implementation plans for outdoor 5G operation in the 3500-MHz band around some airports, but locations outside airport zones should not be significantly affected,” said ISED’s Benmor. “Indoor implementation near these runways would not be affected either.”

He added that the government will continue to investigate the issue and be able to change or ease the measures “well within the 20-year period of ISED’s 3,500-MHz licenses.”

Use this interactive map to see if you live near one of the airports where 5G service will be restricted (select “Both Zones” from the drop-down menu): https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/sf11726.html

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