Federal regulators say Verizon and AT&T will delay part of their 5G rollout near airports to give airlines more time to ensure equipment on their planes is safe from wireless signal interference, but the airline industry is unhappy with the deal.
An airline industry trade group said federal regulators were taking a “rushed approach” to changing aircraft equipment under pressure from telecommunications companies.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday that wireless companies have agreed to delay some of their use of the C-Band section of the radio spectrum until July 2023.
“We believe we have identified a path that will continue to allow aviation and 5G C-band wireless to safely coexist,” said Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen.
However, aviation groups say the C-Band service could interfere with radio altimeters – devices used to measure a plane’s height above the ground. Pilots use altimeters to land in bad weather, when visibility is poor.
Nolen said the planes most susceptible to interference — small regional airline planes — should be fitted with filters or new altimeters by the end of this year. Components to retrofit larger planes used by major airlines are expected to be available by July 2023, when wireless companies plan to operate 5G networks in urban areas “with minimal restrictions”, a- he declared.
Airlines for America, a trade group for the largest US carriers, said the FAA has not approved the necessary upgrades and manufacturers have yet to produce the parts.
“It’s not at all clear that carriers can meet what appears to be an arbitrary UKTN,” Trade Group CEO Nicholas Calio said in a letter to Nolen. He said safety was at risk “by the rushed approach to avionics modifications under pressure from telecommunications companies”, and warned that if spare parts are not ready in time, airline service could be interrupted.
Verizon said the agreement will allow the company to lift voluntary limits on its 5G rollout around airports “in a phased approach over the coming months.” AT&T said it agreed to take “a more personalized approach” to controlling signal strength near runways so airlines have more time to upgrade equipment.
Friday’s developments were the latest in a long-running dispute between airlines and cellphone companies and their respective regulators, the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission, which determined C-band service posed no risk. for airplanes.
Verizon and AT&T spent $68 billion between them in an FCC auction of 5G spectrum last year. The companies began activating new 5G networks in January, but agreed to delay powering up some towers by six months, until July 5, due to concerns raised by the FAA and airlines.