The Canadian government had announced that people living around its airports will not have the full complement of 5G connectivity on airport safety considerations. The announcement came just a few weeks after Canada’s telecoms spent $9 billion in acquiring the 5G spectrum license in July 2021. The new announcement could slice a chunk in expected revenue for the telcos and they are voicing their concerns.
The move around airports will deprive thousands of 5G users of the full use of their smartphones in the restricted areas because there are fears that the 5G network frequencies could interfere with important navigational devices that could affect safety in the airports. One of the successful telcos, Telus Canada said that the decision could deprive it of up to $100 million in lost revenue.
The company says it is indeed surprised that the proposed technical changes would impair a significant amount of the spectrum it won at auction. The comment was filed on September 2 with the country’s Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED). Telus has also noted separately that the mobile industry was taken aback by the move by the Canadian government, and the implications of the policy.
The 5G spectrum licenses were auctioned by ISED and it has stated that it will hold a brief consultation and then put new restrictions in place that will apply to airports where automated landing is permitted. The restrictions will be applied on an individual airport basis.
In Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, no 5G stations will be permitted in a broad stretch of space covering parts of Etobicoke, Brampton, Downsview, and Mississippi. Residents in the affected stretches will not be able to enjoy the needed 5G services. The quantum of potential 5G users that will be affected by these new restrictions is still speculative, but this could be huge.
The restrictions are mainly driven by studies that have indicated the potential risks of interference as a result of the 5G connectivity, especially in airports. Some countries have also implemented mitigation measures.
It remains to be seen how the telecom providers will navigate through the thorny restriction regimen and whether there are some remediation measures for the companies.
Telus is insisting that there are other options open to the regulator so as not to hurt the interests of the telcos, while still ensuring safety. We expect more fluid movements as the new policy becomes operational around Canada’s airports.