AT&T and Verizon Delay 5G Expansion to Address Aircraft Interference Concerns

AT&T and Verizon are delaying the rollout of a new 5G band in order to address concerns about interference with aircraft safety systems, reports The Wall Street Journal.

iphone 5g mmwave
The two companies were set to launch C-Band spectrum on December 5. The C-band covers radio frequencies between 3.7GHz and 4.2GHz, and it is key for the expansion of 5G networks. AT&T and Verizon are now working with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure there will be no interference, delaying the 5G deployment until January 5.

On Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a warning [PDF] about potential 5G interference with radar altimeters, technology used measure a plane's distance from the ground. In the document, the FAA confirms that there have not been "proven reports" about equipment interference in countries where the spectrum is already available, but the agency still has concerns.

The FAA is asking radio altimeter manufacturers to submit equipment details on devices that are used in airplanes, and it has suggested that companies who produce radio altimeters do detailed testing to determine if the hardware is susceptible to interference from C-band spectrum. Aircraft manufacturers have been asked to submit data on the radio altimeters that are in use and to do their own interference testing.

The CTIA, a trade group representing the wireless industry, has said that C-band spectrum can be safely used without causing interference to aviation equipment, but aviation groups have said that the 5G expansion could result in "major disruptions to passenger air travel, commercial transport, and critical helicopter operations."

AT&T spokesperson Margeret Boles said in a statement that AT&T plans to work with the FCC and FAA to understand the interference concerns. "It is critical that these discussions be informed by the science and the data," she said. "That is the only path to enabling experts and engineers to assess whether any legitimate coexistence issues exist."

Tags: AT&T, Verizon

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Top Rated Comments

canyonblue737 Avatar
33 months ago
Ok, just so people understand what this practically means... (I am an airline pilot)

1) the concern is with specific new 5G bands and won't shutoff 5G all around the nation.

2) the issue is in regards to radio altimeters that bounce a signal directly off the terrain below to measure that distance when the airplane is usually less than 1500 ft above the ground (think of a boat depth finder, but for planes.) we use this distance to more accurately guage height above terrain when low to the ground than conventional altimeters and use the data for a host of other systems including determining minimum approach heights, inappropriate descent rate warnings, windshear alerts and more.

3) this issue ONLY applies to 5G when it is near an airport and near a final approach path... perhaps a couple miles at most from the airport. it won't affect the rollout of 5G that isn't near airports as radio altimeters are only in use when close to an airport. it is true that providers like verizon seem to be prioritizing putting 5G and 5G ultra wideband near airports (to certainly seems the most common place i find it) so there is that, but it doesn't mean they can't put it elsewhere in the meantime.

4) it's likely there will turn out to be no issue and no interference, but let them check. if there is there might be ways to mitigate it but that would delay the rollout of the tech near airports.

for example is a proposed temporary 5G restriction zone around an airport in Canada... it isn't like this is a massive area we are talking about, and hopefully temporary.



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Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JPSaltzman Avatar
33 months ago
AT&T: "But in the meantime, you won't mind the 5G surcharge on your monthly bill, will you?"
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LawJolla Avatar
33 months ago
As a pilot, the "phones off" was always silly. (I heard it was really the phone companies pressuring the FAA because the phones quickly switching towers wrecked havoc on their infrastructure)

But the radio altimeter could be a thing. Radio altimeters are crucial for low visibility / "auto land" functionality, and we need to be 100% sure that a 5G tower + phones on final approach doesn't change the altimeter's readings.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Born Again Avatar
33 months ago
anyone old enough to remember when you had an incoming cellphone call your speakers would go BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheYayAreaLiving ?️ Avatar
33 months ago
Safety comes first! That's Priority #1
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
liberte1776 Avatar
33 months ago
Game point to T-Mobile which apparently does not need to worry about this band?
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)