AT&T and Verizon spent billions on obtaining spectrum last year. In December 2021, the two carriers agreed to a 6-week pause on the deployment of C-band 5G to allow testing to ensure 5G C-band didn't interfere with airline safety systems. As this pause period came to a close, the airline industry has protested vigorously to the White House, FAA, FCC and other bodies regarding their concerns around potential interference to navigation systems resulting in possible safety issues.
In another agreement, brokered by the White House, Verizon and AT&T have agreed to delay the 5G deployment around key airports and to work with the airline industry to ensure 5G can safely co-exist with air systems.
US President Biden said, "I want to thank Verizon and AT&T for agreeing to delay 5G deployment around key airports and to continue working with the Department of Transportation on safe 5G deployment at this limited set of locations. This agreement will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90 percent of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled.
"This agreement protects flight safety and allows aviation operations to continue without significant disruption and will bring more high-speed internet options to millions of Americans. Expanding 5G and promoting competition in internet service are critical priorities of mine, and tomorrow will be a massive step in the right direction.
"My team has been engaging non-stop with the wireless carriers, airlines, and aviation equipment manufacturers to chart a path forward for 5G deployment and aviation to safely co-exist – and, at my direction, they will continue to do so until we close the remaining gap and reach a permanent, workable solution around these key airports, the US President concluded.
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FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said, “Next-generation 5G technologies will be the backbone of our economic future. Today's agreement makes it possible to bring this technology to millions more consumers and businesses throughout the country starting tomorrow using the C-band.
"This is welcome news because we know that deployment can safely co-exist with aviation technologies in the United States, just as it does in other countries around the world. The FAA has a process in place to assess altimeter performance in the 5G environment and resolve any remaining concerns. It is essential that the FAA now complete this process with both care and speed,” Rosenworcel concluded.
In a statement Verizon said, “Verizon is proud to lead the nation in 5G. Tomorrow, Verizon will launch its 5G Ultra Wideband network which will enable more than 90 million Americans to experience the transformative speed, reliability and power of this game-changing network on the go or in their homes or businesses. Americans have been clamouring for 5G and tomorrow we will deliver it. As the nation’s leading wireless provider, we have voluntarily decided to limit our 5G network around airports.
"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and our nation’s airlines have not been able to fully resolve navigating 5G around airports, despite it being safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries. Thanks to the best team in the industry for delivering this technology which promises a revolutionary next step in wireless communications including tremendous benefits for our nation," Verizon concluded.
From the tone of the Verizon release they aren't happy with the situation. The delay in launching C-band 5G has no doubt cost the mobile carrier significantly, they purchased the spectrum in good faith from the FCC on the basis that it was deployable from December last year.
Meanwhile a number of international airline carriers have suspended flights to some US airports. Emirates said it would pause flights into the following airports: Boston, Chicago O'Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, Miami, Newark, Orlando, San Francisco and Seattle.
There is also tension between the FAA and the airline industry as the FAA moves to prove that C-band 5G does not interfere with airline systems. This needs the cooperation and support of the airline industry, an industry feeling the pinch of several lean years due to COVID.