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Verizon, AT&T to delay 5G deployment, averting aviation standoff


Verizon contracts crew installs 5G telecommunications equipment in Orem Utah on December 3, 2019.

George Frey | Reuters

Verizon  and AT&T said late on Monday they had agreed to a two-week delay in deploying C-Band wireless spectrum, averting an aviation safety standoff that threatened to disrupt flights starting this week.

Airline unions, the White House and airlines had pressured the carriers to defer deployment due to concerns over interference from 5G with sensitive electronic aircraft such as radio altimeters. This could cause flight disruptions.

According to the agreement, Jan. 19 is now the date for deployment. Verizon stated that the delay gives Verizon the “assurance of the nation’s game-changing 5G network being available in January”. AT&T said it agreed to the delay at the request of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

The company stated that 5G and aviation safety can coexist. They are also confident in further technical collaboration.

In the coming weeks regulators and airlines will be working together with wireless carriers to minimize interference in flight operations.

On Monday morning, U.S. airline, manufacturer and airport groups urged the White House not to allow wireless carriers to use C-Band spectrum to support 5G. The spectrum was awarded to the carriers in an auction worth $80 billion.

The delay came after the chief executives of AT&T and Verizon on Sunday had rejected a request to delay the planned Jan. 5 introduction of new 5G wireless service over aviation safety concerns but offered to temporarily adopt new safeguards.

Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson had asked AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg on Friday for a delay of up to two weeks.

FAA in December warned of interference from 5G mobile spectrum plans that could lead to flight diversion. It had yet to issue formal notices that could further highlight the possible impact.

Sara Nelson (President of Association of Flight Attendants CWA), which represents over 50,000 flight attendants at 17 carriers, said that Verizon was responsible for delayed medicine delivery to patients and their homes.

Nelson stated, “If passengers get stuck on the road,” They have money as an incentive. Safety is our incentive. This is the best form of profit over people.

Sunday, the wireless companies stated they wouldn’t deploy 5G near airports for 6 months and rejected any further limitation of C-Band spectrum. The FAA does not want this exclusion zone to be as wide as it is.

Airlines for America Trade group represents American Airlines, FedEx and other carriers, had asked the Federal Communications Commission to halt deployment around many airports, warning thousands of flights could be disrupted daily.