Jan 19, 2022: AT&T And Verizon have reluctantly agreed to delay the launch of its C-band 5G technology after the FAA and pilot unions threatened to cancel thousands of flights, fearing the rollout would make flying unsafe.
The new technology was scheduled to launch around the United States on Wednesday, January 19, as a two-year deadline approaches. To launch, AT&T and Verizon Towers, which emit signals necessary for power, had to be turned on.
But there are about 500 towers that the FAA says are very close to 88 airports and could be unsafe for aircraft. Pilots say the technology will confuse radar altimeters, which some planes use during landings to indicate how far they are from the ground.
If the altimeter cannot be relied upon, pilots say flying is unsafe and thousands of commercial and cargo flights will have to be grounded. This will lead to a ‘massive’ disruption to the travel industry and even more chaos, which is already a worsening situation due to staff shortages at some airports.
To avoid this, wireless carriers created buffer zones around 50 of the 88 high-risk airports earlier this month. The FAA will not specify which airports do not yet have a buffer zone or airlines.
Earlier this week, the CEOs of several major airlines wrote to the Biden administration asking for interference and said thousands of flights would be canceled if the 5G deployment went ahead without protection at all of the airports.
The White House is now helping broker an agreement between the two industries. At a briefing on Tuesday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the White House ‘understands what is at stake for both industries.’
A deal is being worked on negotiated now to allow 90 percent of the towers – 4,500 – to be turned on, holding back the 500 of concern.
Meanwhile, telecom operator, AT&T is now demanding to know why the FAA – a government body – waited so long before sounding such alarm.
CEOs of major US airlines, wrote a letter to authorities at the White House but Transport Secretary Buttigieg has yet to make a public statement about the issue ahead of Wednesday’s rollout.
Allied Pilots Association spokesperson Dennis Tajer echoed the airlines’ concerns and urged the cellular companies to push back the 5G rollout.
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