AT&T and Verizon postpone 5G rollout after airlines’ outcry

At&T and Verizon postpone 5G rollout after airlines' outcry
At&T and Verizon postpone 5G rollout after airlines' outcry

AT&T and Verizon today announced that they would postpone the rollout of new 5G cell towers near “some” US airports, though they did not specify which ones, and work with federal regulators to resolve the dispute over potential 5G interference with US commercial fleet operations.

American wireless network operators said that they have agreed to delay the planned rollout of 5G service near several US airports due to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and airlines’ concerns that doing so would endanger air traffic safety.

The White House praised the accord, saying it “will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery.”

At issue is the potential interference of 5G signals with radar altimeters, which help pilots land in low visibility. The frequency used by the wireless service was described as “close” to that on which some of the altimeters operate. The airlines demanded a permanent, two-mile buffer zone around US airports to avoid this interference. 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have not been able to resolve the impasse for the last several years. 

AT&T and Verizon have said their signals would not interfere with aircraft instruments and that the technology has been safely used in many other countries. They originally planned to set up their 5G service in early December and have already delayed it twice due to the dispute with the airlines. 

The most recent delay came on New Year’s Eve, after an intervention from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson. As part of that deal, the two telecoms agreed to reduce the power of their signal near 50 US airports for six months, while the FAA and DOT promised not to block the 5G rollout any further. 

However, the airlines complained that the planned buffer only affects the last 20 seconds of flight, and the companies are demanding a larger exclusion zone such as the one established in France, which extends to 96 seconds.

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