AT&T and Verizon May Again Delay 5G Expansion Due to FAA Concerns

For the past month, AT&T and Verizon postponed the rollout of potentially faster C-band 5G service due to Federal Aviation Administration security concerns. Now it looks like there’s an additional delay ahead, again due to concerns from the FAA. The two major carriers were scheduled to use new frequencies on Dec. 5 to roll out the C-band service, but the launch was delayed until Jan. 5 after the Department of Transportation raised concerns about potential interference. According to a letter obtained by Reuters, the Department of Transportation and the FAA are now asking for up to two weeks to study the matter.

In the letter, sent by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson to the CEOs of AT&T and Verizon, the pair asked for a “no more than two weeks” delay. The two framed the request as part of a “proposal as a short-term solution for promoting the coexistence of 5G deployment in the C-Band and safe flight operations,” according to Reuters.

Until now, there has been the possibility that pilots may be using an adverse weather safety system that could conflict with this new C-band 5G technology. The FAA would eventually want to issue regulations banning pilots from using such systems, The Wall Street Journal reported in November. Aviation officials have claimed that C-band 5G has the potential to disrupt flights in and around the nearly four dozen cities where C-band towers are located. Telecom has claimed that there is no evidence that C-band 5G endangers flight safety.

In the context that Reuters describes in its report, the FAA would designate “priority” airports where “a buffer zone would allow aviation operations to continue safely while the FAA completes its assessments of interference potential.”

Reuters says both companies say they have received the letter. But so far, they have failed to agree to an additional two-week delay. It goes without saying that this postponement would come as unwelcome news for both airlines. Reuters reports that on Friday the companies accused the airline industry of holding the C-band expansion “hostage until the wireless industry agrees to cover the cost of upgrading aging altimeters”.

And in a statement to Insider on Saturday, a Verizon spokesperson said: “If the airlines are so concerned about flight cancellations related to 5G, they really need to look at their track record of the past two weeks,” citing a wave. of recent cancellations amid a spate of COVID-19 cases. “This industry, which has received $54 billion from taxpayers in recent years, has clearly had much bigger problems to worry about in recent years.”

As frustrated as the executives of the two providers may be, as Reuters points out, the companies agreed to six months of precautionary measures when they bought the C-band spectrum in early 2021.

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