The chief executives of AT&T and Verizon Communications rejected a request to delay the planned release of the new 5G wireless service on January 5 due to concerns about aviation safety, but offered to temporarily introduce new security measures.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson had asked AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg late Friday for a delay of commercial deployment of no more than two weeks.
The wireless companies said in a joint letter on Sunday that they would not deploy 5G around airports for six months, but rejected any broader restriction on the use of C-Band spectrum. They said the transport ministry’s proposal would be “an irresponsible renunciation of the operational control necessary to deploy world-class and global communications networks.”
The aviation industry and the FAA have expressed concerns about possible interference from 5G with sensitive avionics such as radio altimeters that could disrupt flights.
The exclusion zone proposed by AT&T and Verizon is currently in use in France, the airlines said, “with minor modification” due to “modest technical differences in how C-band is deployed.”
“The laws of physics are the same in the United States and France,” the CEOs wrote. “If American airlines are allowed to operate flights every day in France, they should also operate in the United States under the same conditions.”
The FAA said in a statement on Sunday that it was “assessing the latest letter from the wireless companies on how to reduce interference from 5G C-band transmissions. U.S. aviation safety standards will guide our next actions.”
FAA officials said France is using spectrum for 5G that is further from the spectrum used for radio altimeters and that it uses lower power levels for 5G than those allowed in the United States.
Verizon said it will initially only use spectrum in the same range as in France, adding that it will be a few years before it uses additional spectrum. The larger US exclusion zone around US airports is “to make up for the small difference in power levels between the two countries,” Verizon added.
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), which represents 50,000 employees at 17 airlines, wrote on Twitter on Sunday that pilots, airlines, manufacturers and others “have no reason to delay 5G except SAFETY. think… we’re raising these issues over the holidays, just for fun?”
The Air Line Pilots Association also supported the delay.
Government and industry officials said the exclusion zones proposed by the wireless carriers are not as large as what the FAA has been aiming for.
The FAA and Buttigieg proposed on Friday to identify priority airports “where a buffer zone would allow aviation activities to continue safely while the FAA completes its assessments of interference potential.”
The wireless carriers, which won C-Band spectrum in an $80 billion government auction, previously agreed to six-month precautions to limit interference, but say the upgrades are essential to compete with other countries like China and to enable remote working.
Trade group Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines, FedEx and other airlines, on Thursday asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to halt deployments around many airports, warning that thousands of flights could be disrupted daily.
The airline group has said it could go to court on Monday if the FCC doesn’t act. The group urged the FCC and the telecom industry to work with the FAA and the airline industry to “enable the rollout of 5G technology, putting safety first and avoiding any disruption to the aviation system.”
An FCC spokesperson said Sunday the agency is “optimistic that by working together we can both advance the wireless economy and ensure aviation safety.”
Wireless industry group CTIA said 5G is secure and spectrum is used in about 40 other countries.
(This story was not edited by DailyExpertNews staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)