FAA Asks Major Carriers to Delay 5G Launch Over Interference Concerns

5G communications tower with man using mobile phone
Someone on phone near a 5G tower. | Image from xijian

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and U.S. Department of Transportation have requested that carriers such as Verizon and AT&T delay their 5G service rollout due to potential issues with airplane cockpits.

Both Verizon and AT&T initially refused but offered to integrate safety measures into the 5G rollout near airports. Both carriers have recently agreed to a two week-delay, opposed to the FAA’s proposed 30-day delay.

The 5G upgrade, which would have begun service January 5, utilizes C-band spectrum waves, CNET’s Steven Musil states. The C-band 5G is faster and can cover more land with each signal, carriers such as Verizon boast.

The issue arises because modern aircraft use C-band waves to calibrate and operate their altimeters, which are used to measure altitude while in the cockpit.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote a formal request to these carriers on Friday, urging them to delay their release of the 5G upgrade until more research is done. The letter from Buttigieg and FAA officials states that much is incomplete regarding how to properly create “buffer zones” from 5G around airports. “Failure to reach a solution by January 5 will force the US aviation sector to take steps to protect the safety of the traveling public, particularly during periods of low visibility or inclement weather,” the letter reads.

In France, there are already 5G exclusion zones around airports. Buttigieg cited such developments in the letter to the carriers, offering a potential solution to the ongoing discourse.

AT&T officials stated, “We know aviation safety and 5G can co-exist and we are confident further collaboration and technical assessment will allay any issues.” Over the next two weeks, researchers will study and regulate 5G coverage near airports on the behalf of the FAA.

Interestingly, Honolulu, HI, is one of the only major cities that will not see this C-band 5G rollout. AllNet Insights state that carriers could not implement C-band 5G in Honolulu because it interferes with military operations and nearby satellites.

The Airlines of America association threatened to sue carriers if the 5G is rolled out without further testing, according to a complaint filed with the FCC.

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