Health

5G cellular service will go forward as US reaches deal with carriers

In addition to delaying the start of their service by
two weeks, the carriers will temporarily put in place measures designed to
address the government’s safety concerns about the technology, particularly
around certain airports.

The agency had expressed concerns that the new 5G
service uses signals that clash with equipment pilots use to land in poor
weather. Officials have said they could restrict the use of that equipment,
known as radio altimeters, which could ground or reroute flights under some
conditions.

In a letter to the wireless companies on Monday night,
federal officials said that absent “unforeseen” safety issues with the
technology, they “will not seek or demand any further delays” in turning on the
new technology.

“We are confident that your voluntary steps will
support the safe coexistence of 5G C-Band deployment and aviation activities,
helping to retain America’s economic strength and leadership role around the
world,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the administrator of
the Federal Aviation Administration, Stephen Dickson, in a letter to the chief
executives of the two companies.

The agreement forestalls a collision this week between
AT&T and Verizon, which initially planned to debut the service on
Wednesday, and the federal regulators who said they could restrict flights if
their concerns were not met. The nation’s airlines had said that the
restrictions could disrupt hundreds of thousands of passenger flights, not long
after holiday travel was dogged by delays and cancellations driven by staff
shortages and weather.

“Last night’s agreement is a significant step in the
right direction, and we’re grateful to all parties for their cooperation and
good faith,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Tuesday. “This agreement
ensures that there will be no disruptions to air operations over the next two
weeks and puts us on track to substantially reduce disruptions to air
operations when AT&T and Verizon launch 5G on January 19th.”

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Under the agreement, the wireless carriers will follow
through on their pledge to operate 5G stations at a lower power than they
otherwise plan to. They will reduce the power even more around “no more than 50
priority airports,” according to the agreement.

The FAA said it would assess whether some radio
altimeters could be safely used even with the 5G service, potentially exempting
those devices from future restrictions and limiting the number of planes that
would face delays or cancellations.

Airlines for America, a lobbying group, had threatened
to go to court to block the new 5G service. In a statement, Nicholas E Calio,
the organisation’s chief executive, said it would “continue to work with all
stakeholders to help ensure that new 5G service can coexist with aviation
safely.”

© 2021 The New York Times Company

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