As AT&T Inc (NYSE:T) and Verizon Communications Inc (NYSE:VZ) announced ambitious plans to roll out 5G services in the United States, the airline industry grew concerned about the impact this technology could have on operations and what needs to be done to ensure safety.
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Operational security issues
As USA Today reported, airlines and shipping carriers have raised concerns about the impact the 5G network could have on the safety of flight operations. This prompted AT&T and Verizon to delay rolling out the service to within two miles of several airports in the United States.
In a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), DOT and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, the companies said they wanted to “avoid significant operational disruptions to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of necessary medical supplies.
The concerns are based on the fact that “the band of spectrum that AT&T and Verizon plan to use is close to that used by altimeters, which tell planes their height above the Earth,” USA Today reports.
“This comes as the two telecommunications giants begin to use the spectrum they spent tens of billions on last year.”
Interference and frustration
Despite the fact that the FCC defined a spectrum buffer between the airplane altimeter spectrum and the 5G spectrum to address safety issues, the FAA said new 5G transmitters could cause interference for pilots.
“This came after AT&T and Verizon pushed back their launch of a planned rollout in early December and in November agreed to reduce C-band signal strength for six months,” the outlet claims.
Older planes using older altimeters could be the most affected by 5G signals, meaning pilots taking off or landing in low-visibility conditions couldn’t rely on their instruments. This could disrupt passenger flights as diversions and delays could occur.
After postponing the rollout, AT&T and Verizon argued that several airports in other parts of the world are now operating normally after implementing 5G frequencies, including planes with older altimeters.
In a statement, Verizon expressed frustration, saying, “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and our nation’s airlines have been unable to fully resolve 5G navigation around airports, despite being safe. and fully operational in more than 40 other countries”.