U.S. Officials Ask AT&T, Verizon to Delay 5G Wireless Over Aviation Safety Concerns | Technology News

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Friday asked AT&T and Verizon Communications to delay the planned Jan. 5 introduction of new 5G wireless service 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.

Verizon spokesperson Rich Young said it had received the letter and needs time to review it. AT&T did not immediately comment but 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 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.

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

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.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Lisa Shumaker)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.