AT&T and Verizon, two major US wireless carriers, have agreed to delay the launch of their new 5G service at some airports.
The C-band service, which provides faster speeds and more coverage, was supposed to go live tomorrow.
However, airlines in the United States have pressed for a postponement, claiming that the signals could interfere with aircraft navigation systems.
As a result of the pressure to limit their rollout, the telecoms companies expressed their dissatisfaction.
AT&T stated the rollout would be delayed “temporarily” at a “limited number of towers around select airport runways.” It went on to say that regulators had had “two years” to prepare for the launch of 5G service.
“We are frustrated by the Federal Aviation Administration’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,” AT&T said in a statement.
“We are launching our advanced 5G services everywhere else as planned with the temporary exception of this limited number of towers.”
Verizon also said it had “voluntarily decided to limit our 5G network around airports”.
The White House and aviation regulators scrambled to find a solution to a problem that airlines have warned may create enormous disruption, causing them to halt some of their fleets and cancel flights.
President Joe Biden commended Verizon and AT&T in a statement for agreeing to the postponement, which he claimed would only affect around 10% of wireless tower placements.
“This agreement protects flight safety and allows aviation operations to continue without significant disruption and will bring more high-speed internet options to millions of Americans,” he said, adding that officials would continue talks to find a “permanent, workable solution around these key airports”.
Phone companies have invested tens of billions of dollars upgrading their networks in order to implement 5G technology, which provides significantly faster internet speeds and increased connectivity.
Airlines, on the other hand, are concerned that C-band 5G transmissions will interfere with plane navigation systems, particularly those employed in bad weather. Airbus and Boeing, two major planemakers, have also expressed their concerns.
The ten largest US airlines recently wrote to regulators requesting that 5G transmissions be banned from “about two miles of airport runways at affected airports as determined by the FAA on January 19, 2022.”
“This will allow 5G to be deployed while avoiding harmful impacts on the aviation industry, travelling public, supply chain, vaccine distribution, our workforce and broader economy. We further ask that the FAA immediately identify those base stations closest to key airport runways that need to be addressed to ensure safety and avoid disruption,” they added.
Because of the aviation concerns, there have already been many delays, with launch dates in December and earlier this month also being pushed back. Airlines, according to wireless industry groups, are exaggerating the risks.
Despite Tuesday’s agreement, some airlines, including Air India and Japan’s largest airline, ANA Holdings, have announced that some flights to the United States have been cancelled due to possible 5G interference.
To say the least, the much-hyped rollout of 5G networks in the United States has been chaotic.
The rollout has been postponed twice, and now AT&T and Verizon have agreed to postpone the opening of some areas of the network near airports in response to mounting demand.
(Adapted from NYTimes.com)