AT&T and Verizon will postpone new wireless service near select airports scheduled for this week after the nation’s largest airlines said the service would interfere with aircraft technology and cause massive flight disruptions.
AT&T said Tuesday it would delay activating new cell towers around runways at some airports — it didn’t say how much — and work with federal regulators to resolve the dispute.
Verizon said it would launch its new 5G network but added, “We voluntarily decided to limit our 5G network around airports.”
The moves came after the airline industry upped the stakes in a showdown with AT&T and Verizon over plans to launch 5G wireless service this week, warning that thousands of flights could be grounded or delayed if deployment takes place near major airports.
Here’s a look at the question from the Associated Press.
WHICH SIDE IS THE GOVERNMENT ON?
The Federal Communications Commission, which administers radio spectrum auctions, has determined that C-band is safe to use near air traffic. The FCC in 2020 established a buffer between the 5G band and the spectrum that airplanes use to address any security issues.
But Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson, whose agency is responsible for aviation security, saw a potential problem. On Friday, they asked AT&T and Verizon to suspend 5G C-band activation near an undetermined number of “priority airports” while the FAA conducts further investigation.
HOW DID AT&T AND VERIZON RESPOND?
They dismissed the concerns. The wireless industry trade group CTIA notes that about 40 countries have deployed the C-Band strand of 5G with no reports of harmful interference with aircraft equipment.
But AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg have offered to reduce the power of their 5G networks near airports, as France has done.
“The laws of physics are the same in the United States and in France,” Stankey and Vestberg said in a letter to Buttigieg and Dickson on Sunday. “If American airlines are allowed to operate daily flights in France, then the same operating conditions should allow them to do so in the United States.”
Despite taking steps to appease federal officials, telecoms are still bickering with airlines, which have canceled more than 10,000 US flights since Christmas Eve due to bad weather and labor shortages. artwork caused by COVID-19.
“While the airline industry faces many challenges, 5G is not one of them,” Vestberg said in a memo Tuesday.
HOW MANY PLANES DOES THIS AFFECT?
Under the agreement, the FAA will investigate to find out. The FAA will allow aircraft with accurate and reliable altimeters to operate around high-powered 5G. But planes with old altimeters will not be allowed to land in low visibility conditions.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE NEXT TWO WEEKS?
The two-week postponement will give the FAA and the companies time to implement the agreement.
AT&T and Verizon will be allowed to launch C-Band service this month under previously granted FCC licenses. Airlines have until Friday to provide carriers with a list of up to 50 airports where they believe C-band service power should be reduced until July 5.
Through July, telecoms will discuss with the FAA and airlines potential long-term actions regarding 5G service near airports. However, under the terms of the agreement with the FAA, AT&T and Verizon will have exclusive authority to decide whether service changes will be made.
“We felt it was the right thing to do for the flying public, which includes our customers and all of us, to give the FAA some time to resolve its issues with the aviation community and therefore avoid further embarrassment to passengers with additional flight delays,” Vestberg said in his memo.
Nicholas Calio, president of the Airlines Trade Group, was more muted in his comments on the deal, though he thanked federal officials for reaching the deal with AT&T and Verizon.
“Safety is and always will be the top priority for US airlines. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to help ensure the new 5G service can co-exist with aviation safely,” Calio said.
The FAA issued a brief statement on the two-week delay, saying it looks forward “to utilizing the additional time and space to reduce flight disruptions associated with this 5G rollout.”