U.S. Airlines Warn of 'Catastrophic' Crisis With Impending 5G Rollout, AT&T and Verizon Agree to Delay Around Airports

Verizon and AT&T's upcoming rollout of new C-Band 5G technology could cause chaos and lead to widespread delays of passenger and cargo flights, major U.S. airlines said on Monday in a letter sent to the White House National Economic Council, the FAA, and the FCC (via Reuters).

iphone 5g mmwave
"Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded," read the statement, penned by CEOs of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, UPS Airlines, Alaska Air, Atlas Air, JetBlue Airways, and FedEx Express. More than 1,100 flights could be cancelled, diverted, or delayed, stranding over 100,000 passengers, and airlines have called for "immediate intervention."

The Federal Aviation Administration has claimed that interference from the C-Band 5G could affect airplane altimeters, impacting operations in poor weather conditions. The FAA has already implemented buffer zones around 50 major airports with wireless transmitters close to runways, but the airlines have said that this is not enough and are asking for C-Band 5G to be restricted in a two mile area around airport runways at affected locations.

According to the letter, the FAA has not cleared some of the airports that are "used by most of the traveling and shipping public," which is going to cause significant delays when C-Band spectrum goes live tomorrow.

Given the short time frame and the exigency of this completely avoidable economic calamity, we respectfully request you support and take whatever action necessary to ensure that 5G is deployed except when towers are too close to airport runways until the FAA can determine how that can be safely accomplished without catastrophic disruption.

AT&T and Verizon have been planning to deploy C-Band spectrum to improve their 5G networks since December, but have faced multiple delays due to objections from the FAA and FCC. The two companies last agreed to delay the rollout until January 19, to give airlines more time to prepare to ensure fewer disruptions to air operations.

The two carriers paid billions of dollars for the C-Band spectrum to bolster their 5G networks, and have ensured customers that improvements are coming soon. Verizon last week announced plans to expand 5G Ultra Wideband technology to more than 1,700 cities in the U.S. using the spectrum, and the two carriers are reluctant to agree to further delays.

In response to the letter from the airlines, the FAA said that it "will continue to ensure that the traveling public is safe as wireless companies deploy 5G. The FAA continues to work with the aviation industry and wireless companies to try to limit 5G-related flight delays and cancellations."

Verizon and AT&T this morning said that they will voluntarily delay turning on a limited number of 5G towers to address the aviation industry's concerns. AT&T said that it is frustrated by the FAA's lack of action, given the time the agency has had to prepare.

We are frustrated by the FAA's inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it to do so in a timely manner.

At the current time, it seems C-Band spectrum will indeed begin rolling out on January 19 as planned, but areas around some airport runways will not be activated at this time to avoid signal interference.

Tags: FCC, AT&T, Verizon

Top Rated Comments

Bryan Bowler Avatar
12 months ago
I am very short on time this week, but as a pilot, I will attempt to answer a few of the questions being posted here. The FAA is tasked with protecting public safety. The band being rolled out by AT&T and Verizon is right next to the frequencies used by the special altimeter systems that we use to determine the precise height above the ground during instrument approaches, which are sometimes in poor visibility or even no visibility conditions. As it turns out, this band of 5G frequencies, if broadcasted strong enough, can and do effect our altimeters ability to read our precise height above the ground.

Most of our planes can go all the way down to 100ft above the ground in limited to no visibility before needing to see some part of the runway environment to determine if we can safely land. In some special cases, we can go even lower. Keep in mind that jet engines take a few seconds to spool up and produce enough power to execute a go-around if we cannot safely land. Now, think about just how low a plane actually is when it is only 100ft above the ground and descending (only 1/3rd of a football field) and think about what would happen if our special altimeter systems were off, even by a little bit, and how catastrophic that could be.

As such, the FAA is pulling the plug and will not allow us to even try these instrument approaches if AT&T and Verizon were to implement the bands today. We simply cannot take that risk with lives on board and millions of dollars worth of cargo. This would delay and cancel countless flights. But that leads to more: keep in mind that we go from one flight to another, and cancellations like this would cause a cascading effect of cancellations across the entire system. Think about what happens when there is a major Nor'Easter....flights on the West Coast are cancelled because of the cascading effects on planes and crews.

The solution is not as simple as "put new equipment on planes" as that takes years of developmental and operational testing, certification, and of course, big, big money. Now, whether or not someone in the government has sat on this info for years is above my pay grade...but when it comes to the immediate action by the FAA and as a result, the airlines and cargo carriers, we must halt operations (if things were moving forward as planned) because we cannot risk a crash killing hundreds of people or destroying hundreds of millions of dollars in property.

This has everything to do with public safety. And it has everything to do with keeping the current air transport system up and running.
Score: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)
xxray Avatar
12 months ago
They’ve known this rollout has been planned for years. AT&T and Verizon have already delayed it twice over the past month.

AND, as the article says:

We are frustrated by the FAA's inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it to do so in a timely manner.
So why is this an issue? Why weren’t they preparing for this? They’re hampering U.S. technological innovation.

Edit: removed factually incorrect statement
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
fwmireault Avatar
12 months ago

(cue whiny Gen Z/Millennial voice)
Cancelled flights and plane crashes are a small price to pay if I get faster Instagram notifications and TikTok uploads. Defund the FAA!

Not.
Thank you for your constructive comment
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Konigi Avatar
12 months ago
But why just now?
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BWhaler Avatar
12 months ago
This is why government regulators are a good thing and it’s a total lie that the “free market will optimize best societal decisions."

Government isn’t good for everything, even most things. But they do play a critical role in a decent, modern society.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jz0309 Avatar
12 months ago
Whoever dropped the ball on this, needs serious consequences… 5G and the various spectrums have LONG been known…
This situation could have easily been avoided, it’s called communication
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

pcmag fastest mobile networks 2021 test

T-Mobile Wins Title of Fastest U.S. Carrier in 2021 5G Test

Tuesday August 24, 2021 9:56 am PDT by
With its mid-band 5G network that's widely available, T-Mobile has earned the title of fastest U.S. mobile network in 2021, according to testing conducted by PCMag. Each year, PCMag sends drivers to traverse thousands of miles of the United States. This year, drivers traveled over 10,000 miles and surveyed network speeds in 30 major metro areas and six rural regions to find the fastest...
iphone 5g mmwave

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

Thursday November 4, 2021 1:50 pm PDT by
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. 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...
iphone 5g mmwave

AT&T and Verizon Now Rolling Out C-Band 5G Spectrum

Wednesday January 19, 2022 12:11 pm PST by
Following weeks of delays due to concerns from the aviation industry, Verizon and AT&T were today able to begin deploying C-Band 5G spectrum to improve the availability of 5G connectivity for users across the United States. AT&T's C-Band spectrum is live in limited parts of eight metro areas that include Austin, Chicago, Dallas Ft. Worth, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Orlando, and South...
iphone 13 pro display shot

mmWave 5G on iPhone 13 Remains Limited to U.S. Models

Tuesday September 14, 2021 6:01 pm PDT by
While it was rumored by multiple sources that iPhone 13 models would support mmWave 5G in additional countries, it turns out that mmWave remains limited to iPhone 13 models sold in the U.S., as was the case with iPhone 12 models. Apple's cellular compatibility page confirms that only U.S. models of the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro support mmWave 5G bands. In addition, on Apple's product pages ...
iPad Air Feature 2 green

Buyer's Guide: Don't Buy an iPad Air Right Now – New Model Imminent

Monday February 21, 2022 2:16 am PST by
The fifth-generation iPad Air is expected to arrive in less than a week with a number of notable features and improvements, so prospective customers should now hold off on buying an iPad Air until the new model arrives. According to Japanese blog Mac Otakara, Apple is planning to give the fifth-generation iPad Air features from the sixth-generation iPad mini. This seems plausible since the...
tmobilelogo

T-Mobile's 'Ultra Capacity' 5G Now Covers 200 Million People

Monday November 15, 2021 3:33 pm PST by
T-Mobile today announced that its high-speed "Ultra Capacity 5G" is now available to 200 million people across the United States, with the carrier hitting the milestone weeks ahead of schedule. Ultra Capacity 5G is T-Mobile's higher-speed 5G network that's faster than the Extended Range 5G network that covers 308 million T-Mobile customers. While Extended Range 5G offers LTE-like speeds,...
Apple iPad Air hero color lineup 220308

Apple Unveils New iPad Air With M1 Chip, Optional 5G, and Faster USB-C, Starting at $599

Tuesday March 8, 2022 10:23 am PST by
Apple announced a new iPad Air today at its "Peek Performance" event, featuring Apple's powerful M1 chip previously found in the iPad Pro, as well as optional 5G connectivity, a new front camera with Center Stage, and even faster USB-C connectivity. Available in a new array of colors, iPad Air features Apple's Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage for a more natural video conferencing...
verizonlogo

Verizon Shutting Down 3G Network on December 31, 2022

Tuesday March 30, 2021 10:53 am PDT by
Verizon is planning to shut down its 3G network at the end of 2022, effectively ending 3G support, the company announced today. Verizon has pushed back the sunsetting of its 3G network several times now, but it sounds like a concrete end date has finally been established. We will turn off the last of the 3G CDMA network on December 31, 2022, months after our competitors have shut off their...

Popular Stories

maxresdefault

Can't Get an iPhone 14 Pro? Here's Why You Should Wait for the iPhone 15 Ultra

Monday December 5, 2022 11:44 am PST by
Due to production issues at Apple supplier factories in China, the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are backordered and basically out of stock at every store. If you were planning to gift or receive an iPhone 14 Pro model for the holidays and didn't already get one, you're basically out of luck because they're gone until late December. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more ...
Apple advanced security Advanced Data Protection screen Feature

FBI Calls End-to-End Encryption 'Deeply Concerning' as Privacy Groups Hail Apple's Advanced Data Protection as a Victory for Users

Thursday December 8, 2022 2:45 am PST by
Apple yesterday announced that end-to-end encryption is coming to even more sensitive types of iCloud data, including device backups, messages, photos, and more, meeting the longstanding demand of both users and privacy groups who have rallied for the company to take the significant step forward in user privacy. iCloud end-to-end encryption, or what Apple calls "Advanced Data Protection,"...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

iOS 16.2 for iPhone Launching This Month With These 8 New Features

Thursday December 1, 2022 8:44 am PST by
Apple plans to publicly release iOS 16.2 for the iPhone in mid-December, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. The update remains in beta testing for now, with at least eight new features and changes already uncovered so far. iOS 16.2 introduces a number of new features, including Apple's new whiteboard app Freeform, two new Lock Screen widgets for Sleep and Medications, the ability to hide...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With Apple Music Sing in iOS 16.2

Wednesday December 7, 2022 12:24 pm PST by
With the iOS 16.2 release candidate that came out today, Apple added the new Apple Music Sing feature that was announced earlier this week. We thought we'd check out the new karaoke feature to see how it works. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Apple Music Sing is available on modern iPhones and iPads, as well as the newest Apple TV 4K. It's built in to the Apple...
Apple car wheel icon feature yellow

Apple to Charge Under $100,000 for Apple Car, Launch Planned for 2026

Tuesday December 6, 2022 2:31 pm PST by
Apple is aiming to launch an Apple-branded consumer-oriented vehicle by 2026, and its goal is to hit a price point under $100,000 to make the car appeal to a wider range of customers, reports Bloomberg. Apple initially planned to design a car that might look similar to Canoo's Lifestyle Vehicle, where passengers could face one another in a limousine-style car with no steering wheel or...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

iOS 16.2 for iPhone Expected to Launch Next Week With These 12 New Features

Thursday December 8, 2022 7:05 am PST by
iOS 16.2 is expected to be released next week following nearly two months of beta testing. With last-minute additions like Apple Music Sing and Advanced Data Protection, the software update now has over a dozen new features for the iPhone. Below, we've recapped many of the new features coming with iOS 16.2, including Apple's new whiteboard app Freeform, two new Lock Screen widgets, the...
introducing apple music sing

Apple Music Adding a Karaoke Experience With Apple Music Sing

Tuesday December 6, 2022 7:09 am PST by
Apple today announced Apple Music Sing, a new feature in Apple Music that lets users sing their favorite songs with adjustable vocals and more. Apple Music Sing will utilize Apple Music's real-time lyrics to allow users to sing to their favorite songs using adjustable vocals, background vocals, and duet view to allow more than one singer.Apple Music Sing includes: Adjustable vocals: Users...
Twitter Feature

Twitter to Charge $11 Per Month for Twitter Blue on iPhone, $7 on Website

Wednesday December 7, 2022 6:47 pm PST by
Twitter plans to charge $11 per month for a Twitter Blue subscription on the iPhone in order to account for the 30 percent cut that Apple takes from in-app purchases, reports The Information. On the web, Twitter Blue will be priced at $7 per month. Prior to when Twitter Blue was paused, Twitter was charging $7.99 for a subscription, but the pricing will change before it relaunches. According ...
Apple advanced security Advanced Data Protection screen Feature

Apple Announces End-to-End Encryption Option for iCloud Photos, Notes, Backups, and More

Wednesday December 7, 2022 10:00 am PST by
Apple today announced it is expanding end-to-end encryption to many additional iCloud data categories on an opt-in basis for enhanced security. iCloud already protects 14 data categories using end-to-end encryption by default, including the Messages app when backups are disabled, passwords stored in iCloud Keychain, Health data, Apple Maps search history, Apple Card transactions, and more,...