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AT&T and Verizon agree to delay rolling out 5G network for 2 weeks

Two of the biggest phone companies in the United States of America, AT&T and Verizon, have agreed to a government request to postpone the launch of 5G services this week.  The US Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) made the request over concerns about aviation safety.

Last month, in a joint letter to US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the CEOs of Boeing and Airbus Americas, Dave Calhoun and Jeffrey Knittel, warned that “5G interference could severely damage aircraft’s ability to safely fly.”  According to data conducted by trade group Airlines for America, nearly three hundred and forty-five thousand (345,000) passenger flights and five thousand, four hundred (5,400) cargo aircraft would have experienced delays, diversions, or cancellations if the FAA’s 5G guidelines had been in place in 2019. Concerns have also been expressed by the aviation sector and the FAA regarding 5G’s possible interference with sensitive aircraft equipment such as radio altitude meters.

In a statement, Airbus stated, “Airbus and Boeing have been working with other aviation sector players in the United States to investigate potential 5G interference with radio altimeters.” “To the US Department of Transportation, an Aviation Safety Proposal to mitigate potential risks has been filed for consideration.” It added.

AT&T and Verizon had earlier said in November of 2021 that they would delay the commercial debut of C-band wireless service for a month, until January 5, 2022, and that they would take preventive measures to limit interference. Aviation industry groups however complained that the safeguards are insufficient, and Boeing and Airbus then proposed a counterproposal that would restrict cellular communications near airports and other important sites.

It is worthy to note that AT & T and Verizon initially turned down the most recent request for a postponement, but then changed their stance after considerations. They had also offered to reduce service around US airports for six months as a precautionary measure, similar to what France had done. Sometime last year, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auction, sold the two carriers the rights to utilize so-called “C-band” frequencies for roughly $70 billion. Verizon and AT&T are eager to install it so that, in addition to providing ultra-fast 5G connection in some places using high-band millimetre-wave technology and much slower 5G over low-band frequencies, the additional spectrum will give in-between performance over a far larger region. T-Mobile now uses spectrum in the mid-band, which is not in the C-band.

However, with the new concerns, the two companies agreed to stall rolling out the 5G network, which they made known on their respective social media handles. “Agreeing to your proposal would not only be an unprecedented and unwarranted circumvention of the due process and checks and balances carefully crafted in the structure of our democracy, but an irresponsible abdication of the operating control required to deploy world-class and globally competitive communications networks that are every bit as essential to our country’s economic vitality, public safety, and national security,” AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg wrote.

‘We have voluntarily consented to a two-week delay in the deployment of C-Band 5G services at Secretary Buttigieg’s request. We also intend to follow through on the six-month protection zone mitigations we proposed in our letter. We are optimistic that aircraft safety and 5G can coexist, and that more collaboration and technical examination will resolve any difficulties.’ AT&T added.

The disagreement occurs, according to the FAA, because “concerns that the 5G signal could interfere with the accuracy of an airplane’s radio altimeter, without other mitigations in place.” These altimeters are critical for automatic landings, and the FAA says that implementing the adjustments will cause disruptions in air traffic and compromise safety.

“Safety is at the heart of our mission, and it influences all of our decisions,” FAA Communications deputy assistant administrator Jeannie Shiffer told the press. The FAA expresses its gratitude to AT&T and Verizon for agreeing to a voluntary delay and proposing mitigations. We’re excited to use the extra time and space to minimize flight disruptions caused by the 5G implementation.”

She further claims that the firms will apply mitigations similar to those currently in place in European countries as part of the accord. “While U.S. standards and operating environments are unique, we believe this might greatly lessen the delays to flight operations,” the FAA said now, referring to the contract that will see those mitigations put in place around 50 airports for six months.

The FAA had previously warned that it would have to issue NOTAMs (Notice to Air Missions) to inform aircrews of airports where radio altimeter data might be unreliable due to 5G wireless interference, and that aircraft flight manual should be updated to reflect such limitations in an airworthiness directive (AD). According to the document’s summary, it is implementing a new airworthiness directive (AD) for all transport and commuter category airplanes equipped with a radio (also known as radar) altimeter. This AD was motivated by a judgment that radio altimeters in the 3.7-3.98 GHz frequency band cannot be depended upon to perform their intended purpose if they are subjected to interference from wireless broadband operations (5G C-Band).

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