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Verizon, AT&T delay some 5G services over airline concerns

Federal regulators say Verizon and AT&T will delay some of their 5G rollouts near airports to give airlines more time to ensure equipment on their planes is safe from interference from the wireless signals, but the airline industry is not happy about the deal.

An airline industry trade group said federal regulators, under pressure from telecom companies, are taking a “rushed approach” to replacing equipment on planes.

The Federal Aviation Administration said on Friday that the wireless companies had agreed to delay some of their use of the C-band portion of the wireless spectrum until July 2023.

“We believe we have found a path that will continue to enable the secure coexistence of aviation and 5G C-band wireless,” said Acting Administrator of the FAA Billy Nolen.

But aviation groups say the C-band service could interfere with radio altimeters — devices used to measure an aircraft’s height above the ground. Pilots use altimeters for inclement weather landings when visibility is poor.

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Nolen said planes most prone to interference — smaller, so-called regional planes — will need to be retrofitted with filters or new altimeters by the end of this year. Components to retrofit larger planes used by major airlines should be available by July 2023, when cellphone companies expect to run 5G networks in urban areas “with minimal restrictions,” he said.

Airlines for America, a trading group of the largest US airlines, said the FAA had not approved the necessary upgrades and manufacturers had not yet produced the parts.

“It’s not at all clear that transport companies can meet what appears to be an arbitrary deadline,” Nicholas Calio, the trade group’s CEO, said in a letter to Nolen. He said safety was threatened “by the hasty approach to avionics modifications under pressure from telecom companies” and warned that flight service could be disrupted if spare parts are not ready on time.

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Verizon said the agreement will allow the company to lift voluntary restrictions on its 5G rollout at airports “in a phased approach over the coming months.” AT&T said it has agreed to take a “more tailored approach” to controlling signal strength near runways, giving airlines more time to retrofit 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, who determined C-band service posed no risk to planes.

Verizon and AT&T spent a combined $68 billion in an FCC auction of 5G spectrum last year. The companies began activating new 5G networks in January but agreed to delay the commissioning of some towers by six months to July 5 due to concerns from the FAA and airlines.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/business/2022/06/18/verizon-att-delay-some-5g-service-over-airlines-concerns/ Verizon, AT&T delay some 5G services over airline concerns

Sarah Y. Kim

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