US FAA lists 50 airports where 5G will be deployed with buffer zone

In a statement the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) listed 50 U.S. airports which will feature buffer zones wherein wireless carriers can turn on new 5G C-band services from January 19, 2022.

On Monday, Verizon Communications, and AT&T agreed to create buffer zones around 50 airports to reduce the risk of disruption from potential interference to sensitive airplane instruments like altimeters.

Both companies also agreed to delay deployment for two weeks, averting an aviation safety standoff.

The list includes airports in Los Angeles, New York City, Las Vegas, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia, and Seattle.

In a statement the FAA said, this does “not necessarily” mean that low-visibility flights cannot occur at airports that are not among the 50.

AT&T and Verizon, which won nearly all of the C-Band spectrum in an $80-billion auction in 2021, declined comment.

Last week, the FAA renewed warnings saying despite the agreement 5G wireless service could still disrupt flights “even with the temporary buffer around 50 airports, 5G deployment will increase the risk of disruption during low visibility” including “flight cancellations, diverted flights, and delays during periods of low visibility.”

A few major airports including Denver, Ronald Reagan Washington National, and Atlanta, are not on the list since 5G is not yet being deployed in those states; others are not on the list since “5G towers are far enough away that a natural buffer exists.”

“Other airports not listed do not currently have the ability to allow low-visibility landings,” said the FAA while adding, delayed deployment of 5G would allow it to evaluate ways to minimize disruptions, and also gives companies more time to prepare.

“If there’s the possibility of a risk to the flying public, we are obligated to pause the activity, until we can prove it is safe,” said the FAA.

Last Friday, ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke, who heads the association representing U.S. and Canadian airports said, the FAA list “is largely irrelevant because the entire aviation system is about to be adversely impacted by this poorly planned and coordinated expansion of 5G service in and around airports.” He said the “so-called fix will create winners and losers within the airport community, and the entire aviation system will suffer under the terms of this deal.”

Airlines for America, a trade group representing U.S. passenger and cargo carriers, said it appreciated the “FAA’s efforts to implement mitigations for airports that may be most impacted by disruptions generated by the deployment of new 5G service.”

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