AT&T and Verizon are holding off their planned rollout of C-Band 5G technology around select airports in the US. The two carriers were scheduled to activate 5G at those locations today but have now postponed the plans indefinitely. The decision comes after several airlines jointly wrote to the Biden administration asking for “immediate intervention”. The airlines warned that the planned deployment could have “dire consequences” for travel, transportation, and the economy. Shipping companies such as UPS and FedEx also reportedly signed the warning letter.
According to the airlines, the C-Band 5G technology will interfere with aviation technology. They fear that the tech could disrupt radar altimeters that pilots use to land in low-visibility conditions. Effectively, this would disrupt flight operations to and from the affected airports, which could have severe consequences.
The warning letter to the Biden administration mentioned possible cancellations of thousands of flights per day across the country. This will not only affect travels but cargo operations as well, causing “a negative ripple effect on an already fragile supply chain.”
The airlines wanted the government to intervene and force AT&T and Verizon to postpone the proposed rollout. They have managed to do that.
In a statement Tuesday, President Joe Biden thanked the two carriers of their cooperation. “This agreement will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90 percent of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled,” President Biden said. He added that the government is “engaging non-stop with the wireless carriers, airlines, and aviation equipment manufacturers to chart a path forward for 5G deployment and aviation to safely co-exist.”
Airlines force AT&T and Verizon to delay their 5G expansion
AT&T and Verizon originally planned to roll out their C-Band 5G technology at the questioned locations on December 5, 2021. They last month agreed to postpone the plans to January 5, 2022. Moreover, earlier this month, they signed an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to further delay the rollout around 50 airports until Wednesday, January 19th, i.e. today. However, just ahead of that, the two carriers have been forced to hold off the plans indefinitely.
Of course, the companies aren’t happy about that. In a statement to CNN, AT&T spokesperson Megan Ketterer lashed out at the FAA for “unfounded fears.”
“We are frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner,” Megan said.
Verizon also echoed its rival’s sentiments in a separate statement. “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and our nation’s airlines have not been able to fully resolve navigating 5G around airports, despite it being safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries,” the company said. “As the nation’s leading wireless provider, we have voluntarily decided to limit our 5G network around airports.”
Both carriers will continue to expand their 5G presence in other locations than near the said 50 airports. The companies are also reportedly discussing the possibility of creating buffer zones at those airports. If agreed to, they could be able to deploy 5G to roughly 90 percent of towers. Hopefully, the concerned parties will find a long-term resolution soon.