Another preventable “crisis”.
what you need to know
- AT&T and Verizon have announced that they will delay the deployment of C-band 5G at some airports until an unspecified date in the future.
- The spectrum in question, from 3.7 to 4.0 GHz, is responsible for delivering next-generation 5G speeds to phones.
- Airline officials claim the spectrum will interfere with older altimeters on many commercial and domestic planes, and say there will be a “catastrophic outage” if 5G towers come into use.
If what airline officials say is true, the airplane mode on your phone could become even more important. After several delays, mid-band 5G spectrum around 3.7-4.0 GHz is scheduled to come online on January 19. The deployment was delayed again after airline officials sent a letter on Jan. 17 to the FAA, the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Department of Transportation and President Biden himself, Reuters wrote. The scheduled deployment is less than two days away.
T-Mobile isn’t using this spectrum for its 5G network, so it’s not affected by this decision.
In the letter, airline officials repeated statements they’ve been making since 2019, when the FAA set rules for this particular block of wireless spectrum. They say that when these 5G signals are deployed too close to airports, older altimeters won’t work properly in low-visibility conditions.
The FAA approves only about 45 percent of U.S. commercial aircraft for low-visibility landings at airports where the 5G C-band spectrum is planned to be deployed. As a result, airline officials said, without FAA approval, “on a day like yesterday (January 16, 2021)” 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers would see airline delays.
In statements to The Verge, Verizon and AT&T said they were “frustrated” by both the FAA and the airlines, which were taking longer than expected to upgrade equipment and clear planes for landing.
The FAA says modern altimeters should be fine to avoid any disruptions that might be caused on particularly heavy traffic days.
Additionally, statements from AT&T and Verizon say 40 countries around the world have adopted this spectrum around airports with no reported issues.
Verizon and AT&T purchased licenses to use C-band spectrum for $65 billion in February 2021 to further strengthen their 5G networks. This particular spectrum is extremely important in both companies’ 5G deployments, as it’s used to deliver what could be considered “next-generation speeds” on the best 5G phones already in customers’ hands.
The statement issued by AT&T and Verizon did not say when the deployment would be suspended, but it is clear from President Biden’s response that the FAA and the President still see it as a success, as the President’s letter states that this would still allow “90 % of wireless tower deployments are happening on schedule.”
The president’s statement also did not give an exact date on which deployments are planned to restart.