Health

US officials ask AT&T, Verizon to delay 5G wireless over aviation safety concerns

In a letter Friday seen by Reuters, Buttigieg and FAA
Administrator Steve Dickson asked AT&T Chief Executive John Stankey and
Verizon Chief Executive Hans Vestberg for a delay of no more than two weeks as
part of a “proposal as a near-term solution for advancing the co-existence
of 5G deployment in the C-Band and safe flight operations.”

The aviation industry and FAA have raised concerns about
potential interference of 5G with sensitive aircraft electronics like radio
altimeters that could disrupt flights.

“We ask that your companies continue to pause
introducing commercial C-Band service for an additional short period of no more
than two weeks beyond the currently scheduled deployment date of Jan 5,”
the letter says.

Verizon and AT&T both said they received the letter and
were reviewing it. Earlier Friday the two companies accused the aerospace
industry of seeking to hold C-Band spectrum deployment “hostage until the
wireless industry agrees to cover the costs of upgrading any obsolete
altimeters.”

Buttigieg and Dickson said under the framework
“commercial C-band service would begin as planned in January with certain
exceptions around priority airports.”

The FAA and the aviation industry would identify priority
airports “where a buffer zone would permit aviation operations to continue
safely while the FAA completes its assessments of the interference
potential.”

The government would work to identify “mitigations for
all priority airports” to enable most “large commercial aircraft to
operate safely in all conditions.” That would allow deployment around
“priority airports on a rolling basis” — aiming to ensure activation
by March 31 barring unforeseen issues.

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The carriers, which won the spectrum in an $80 billion
government auction, previously agreed to precautionary measures for six months
to limit interference.

On Thursday, trade group Airlines for America asked the
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to halt deployment of new 5G wireless
service around many airports, warning thousands of flights could be disrupted:
“The potential damage to the airline industry alone is staggering.”

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight
Attendants-CWA, representing 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines, called
the Transportation Department proposal “the right move to successfully
implement 5G without using the travelling public (and the crews on their
flights) as guinea pigs for two systems that need to coexist without questions
for safety.”

Wireless industry group CTIA said 5G is safe and spectrum is
being used in about 40 other countries.

House Transportation Committee chair Peter DeFazio Friday
backed the airline group petition warning “we can’t afford to experiment
with aviation safety.”

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