US phone giants delay 5G rollout following airplane safety fears

Tuesday 04 January 2022 10:19 am

Two of the largest US phone firms have agreed to delay the rollout of 5G services following government concerns about airplane safety. The US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) made the request after plane makers warned that C-Band spectrum 5G wireless signals could disrupt flights, with Airbus and Boeing stating that “5G interference could adversely affect the ability of aircraft to safely operate”. In a letter, the aviation giants used research by trade group Airlines for America which found that if the FAA’s 5G rules had been in effect in 2019, about 345,000 passenger flights and 5,400 cargo flights would have faced delays, diversions or cancellations.

AT&T and Verizon initially pushed back, having already delayed the 5G rollout, and offered to mitigate service around US airports for six months as a temporary safeguard, according to BBC reports. However, both companies have now said they would postpone the rollout of their wireless networks by an additional two weeks. Rich Young, a Verizon spokesperson, said the delay “promises the certainty of bringing this nation our game-changing 5G network in January”.

AT&T said it had also agreed to the two-week delay, but added that it “remain[s] committed to the six-month protection zone mitigations we outlined in our letter”, as reported by the Financial Times.

An AT&T spokeswoman said they had agreed to the request from Mr Buttigieg, but said in a statement that “we know aviation safety and 5G can co-exist and we are confident further collaboration and technical assessment will allay any issues”.

The FAA in a statement thanked the telecoms groups for agreeing the additional interval and said “we look forward to using the additional time and space to reduce flight disruptions associated with this 5G deployment”.

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