NATS, the UK’s leading provider of air traffic services and solutions, is the first operator in the country to have future proofed its radar against interference from the 4G mobile network.
The work to modify its systems means the higher band 4G mobile spectrum, which was recently auctioned by telecom regulator Ofcom ahead of a full roll-out in 2014, will not cause interference to the radar signals NATS uses to control aircraft in UK skies.
The upper band 4G network covers the frequencies from 2.5Ghz to 2.69Ghz. In comparison, the ‘S-Band’ radars NATS uses for air traffic control operate at 2.7Ghz. With the close proximity of the two, there was the potential for 4G masts to create significant interference on radar screens, with obvious safety implications.
Initial trials to mitigate the impact were carried out on the NATS designed NASR-10 Kincardine radar and were completed and approved by the Civil Aviation Authority in December 2012.
Since then, the other affected radar stations – radars in operation at Glasgow and Edinburgh – have also been upgraded and successfully brought back into service.
Rod Swain, Project Manager for the UK Radar Remediation at NATS, commented: “For most people, the roll out of 4G means greater availability of superfast mobile broadband, but for NATS it has presented a real challenge. Safety is always our priority so we wanted to make sure we had a solution in place well ahead of schedule and being the first organisation to be compliant is a great achievement.”
The Department for Transport asked all radar operators potentially impacted by 4G to have modifications in place by September 2013 at the latest.
Having designed and delivered a solution well ahead of that deadline, NATS is now offering its support to other operators.
Rod added: “We make use of other radar networks, so it’s in everyone’s interest to share the engineering expertise that NATS has acquired with other suppliers.”