WASHINGTON AT&T and Verizon Communications agreed on Tuesday to temporarily defer turning on some wireless towers near key airports in order to prevent a major disruption to U.S. flights.
President Joe Biden said the agreement will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90 per cent of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled. Sources told Reuters that Verizon will not turn on about 500 towers near the airports, or less than 10 per cent of their planned deployment, while carriers and the administration work on a permanent solution. Details of the agreement, including the length of the pause, were not disclosed.
Verizon and AT&T will launch 5 G on Wednesday, which will bring faster speeds to tens of millions of people.
The Federal Aviation Administration FAA warned of 5 G wireless interference that could affect sensitive aircraft instruments, such as radio altimeters, and hamper low-visibility operations.
The FAA has a process in place to assess altimeter performance in the 5 G environment and resolve any remaining concerns, according to Jessica Rosenworcel, Chair of the Federal Communications Commission. It is important that the FAA complete this process with care and speed. The FAA anticipated that there will be some impacts due to the limitations of some radio altimeters, and it said it would be aware of the limitations of some radio altimeters. Airlines for America, a passenger and cargo trade group, said the pause provides the opportunity to ensure that all stakeholders, consumers and the U.S. economy are served in the long run. This is the third time that AT&T and Verizon have agreed to delay the deployment of the new C-Band 5 G wireless service. In November, the companies postponed deployment by 30 days until Jan. 5. They agreed to delay deployment until January 19 earlier this month.
Nearly all but a handful of the impacted sites are Verizon towers, officials said.
The FAA and airlines must deal with how to deal with the concerns permanently, especially since AT&T and Verizon agreed to take measures to reduce interference for six months.
Despite the agreement, major foreign carriers including Air India and Japan's largest airline, ANA Holdings said they had canceled some U.S. bound flights because of possible 5 G interference.
ANA canceled some Boeing 777 flights after Boeing announced flight restrictions on all airlines operating the Boeing 777 aircraft. Boeing did not immediately make a statement.
Airlines are likely to cancel some additional flights in the coming hours as they wait for formal guidance from the FAA on the announcements from Verizon and AT&T. They warned of the catastrophic impacts. Airlines had expressed concerns that the issue could prevent them from flying Boeing 777 s and other widebody jets to many key airports.
The chief executives of major U.S. passenger and cargo carriers said new 5 G service could render a large number of widebody aircraft unusable, could cause delays for tens of thousands of Americans overseas and cause chaos for U.S. flights.
The airlines asked that 5 G be implemented everywhere in the country except within the approximate 2 miles 3.2 km of airport runways at some key airports.
Verizon's roll out plan is more aggressive than AT&T's. It is impacted by the Biden administration request to delay using some towers near airport runways.
AT&T and Verizon won significant C-Band spectrum in an $80 billion auction last year.
On Jan. 4th, Verizon Chief Executive Hans Vestberg told employees that the carrier saw no aviation safety issue with 5 G and had resisted prior delays, officials told Reuters.