AT&T and Verizon to delay 5G expansion due to aircraft interference concerns


AT&T and Verizon won’t be rolling out their C-band 5G service on January 5 anyway. The airlines have agreed to comply with a request from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Department to delay their 5G expansion for another two weeks. Authorities have asked the companies for additional time to investigate concerns about possible interference with aircraft systems and electronics.

Both AT&T and Verizon were set to roll out their potentially faster C-band service in December with newly purchased frequencies, but they delayed the expansion as requested by the Federal Aviation Administration. Airlines and aircraft manufacturers worry that the new frequencies are too close to those used by aircraft radar altimeters, which provide data on the distance between the aircraft and the ground. Failures can then lead to unsafe landings. However, wireless industry giants claim that the C-band service capabilities are low enough and the frequency gap is large enough to avoid interference.

Shortly before the alleged January 5 rollout, the agencies asked carriers for an additional two weeks to investigate the issue. They initially rejected the authorities’ call for an additional reprieve and issued a joint letter stating that granting the request would be to the detriment of customers. The airlines instead tried to compromise, telling authorities they are open to a six-month hiatus near some airports.

It’s unclear what changed the companies’ minds, but both have agreed to suspend their plans for now.

A Verizon spokesperson told Engadget in a statement:

“We’ve agreed to a two-week delay, promising the certainty of bringing this country our groundbreaking 5G network in January, delivered over America’s best and most reliable wireless network.”

An AT&T spokesperson sent us a similar response:

“At the request of Secretary Buttigieg, we have voluntarily agreed to an additional two-week delay for our deployment of C-Band 5G services. We also remain committed to the six-month restriction on the protection zones that we outlined in our letter. We know aviation safety and 5G can co-exist and we are confident that further cooperation and technical assessment will mitigate any issues.”

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