US officials ask AT&T and Verizon for another 5G deadline to protect planes

U.S. officials have asked AT&T and Verizon to further delay new 5G deployments so the Federal Aviation Administration can have more time to determine where they might interfere with airlines. US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson on Friday sent a letter to CEOs of the two telecoms asking for a delay of “no more than two weeks,” according to Reuters.

AT&T and Verizon had already delayed those deployments by a month due to concerns from regulators and planned to begin the rollout on Jan.5 as a result. The two telecoms are now telling Initiated they examine the last request for a new deadline. Buttigieg and Dickson write that, even with a further delay, they expect the 5G rollout to start in January “with some exceptions around priority airports.”

The two telecoms are eager to start rolling out the new 5G spectrum they purchased in early 2021, which uses so-called C-band frequencies. These spectrum frequencies allow radio waves to reach an ideal point between high speeds and long distances, enabling faster 5G deployments than traditional LTE spectrum can achieve, without the stifling distance limitations that come with millimeter wave 5G. Completing these deployments is a critical step for AT&T and Verizon to make 5G a worthwhile upgrade and stay competitive with T-Mobile, which has already started rolling out its own similar spectrum.

Officials were concerned that C-band frequencies could interfere with altimeters and prevent the use of guided landing systems intended for periods of low visibility, threatening the safety of aircraft. On December 7, the FAA went so far as to tell pilots that they could not use these guided and automatic landing systems at airports where there would be interference, which could theoretically lead to numerous flight delays.

Buttigieg and Dickson want to identify “priority airports” and mitigation strategies so that most large commercial aircraft can “operate safely in all conditions”. Some proposals revolve around the establishment of 5G “buffer zones” around airports, according to The Wall Street Journal.

AT&T and Verizon are quite unhappy with the delays. The companies on Friday accused the aerospace industry of holding the deployment “hostage” unless they cover the cost of altimeter upgrades. Verizon has also looked into the airline industry, saying Initiated“This industry which has secured a $ 54 billion taxpayer-funded government bailout over the past two years clearly has much bigger issues to worry about.”

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