Las Vegas Airport Included in 5G Buffer Zone, Flights to Harry Reid International Remain Uninterrupted


Harry Reid International, the main Las Vegas airport, will be one of the country’s major commercial air hubs that will be afforded a 5G buffer zone when the mobile network is deployed.

Las Vegas airport 5G Harry Reid International
Las Vegas airport 5G Harry Reid International
New signage at Harry Reid International, formerly known as McCarran International, is seen outside the main Las Vegas airport after the hub’s rebranding in December of 2021. The forthcoming 5G networks from AT&T and Verizon, as of now, will have no impact on air travel to Southern Nevada. (Image: Harry Reid International)

AT&T and Verizon heeded calls yesterday from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the global airline industry urging the wireless network operators to delay deploying their 5G network across the United States. While such networks have been implemented in numerous other countries, there are key differences in how the American tech giants have developed their system, some airliners say.

5G utilizes a segment of the radio spectrum that is close to the frequencies used by commercial airplanes. Aircraft relies on radio altimeters, which measure how high an object is from the ground and greatly assist pilots in landing amid low visibility conditions.

Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International — the country’s seventh-busiest airport in terms of passengers served in 2020 — is where nearly all air travelers arrive in Southern Nevada.

Technical Interference Concerns

Despite AT&T and Verizon agreeing to delay the rollout of their 5G technology infrastructure, numerous foreign airlines have announced changes to their operations.

British Airways, Emirates, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Australian Airlines, and Cathay Pacific are among the airlines that have either canceled flights or readjusted their aircraft used to fly to the US. Boeing’s 777 aircraft is thought to be most impacted by the forthcoming 5G networks in the US.

The FAA and airlines — including Southwest, which has the most slots at Harry Reid International — have called on AT&T and Verizon to implement a minimum two-mile buffer zone around major airports to assure that radio altimeter communications are not disrupted. The wireless carriers say their 5G systems will not interfere with such air landings.

Emirates President Tim Clark told CNN this week that the controversy is a failure of the US government.

This is one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible issue subjects I’ve seen in my aviation career because it involves organs of government, manufacturers, and science,” Clark declared.

Clark says the 5G approvals that AT&T and Verizon received from the US government allow for antennas to feature double the power of 5G networks operating in other parts of the world.

Casino Traffic Uninterrupted

In pre-pandemic 2019, Harry Reid International — then still known as McCarran International — accommodated over 51.5 million passengers. Domestic travel accounted for the vast majority — 46.6 million travelers.

Several airlines have recently canceled or adjusted their schedules to major US cities that have their airports located in densely populated areas. Airports impacted by the 5G controversy so far include Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.

Las Vegas, however, has not yet been affected. That should remain the case in Southern Nevada, as airport officials say a 5G buffer zone will be in place when AT&T and Verizon turn on their new mobile towers.

The two-mile buffer zone roughly extends west from Harry Reid International across I-15 to Valley View Rd., north to Flamingo Rd., east to Sandhill Rd., and south to Windmill Lane.

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