U.S. airline group seeks 5G wireless deployment delay near airports

An airplane takes off from the Ronald Reagan National Airport as air traffic is affected by the spread of the COVID-19, in Washington, U.S., March 18, 2020.

An airplane takes off from the Ronald Reagan National Airport as air traffic is affected by the spread of the COVID-19, in Washington, U.S., March 18, 2020.

A U.S. trade group representing major passenger and cargo airlines asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday to halt deployment of new 5G wireless service at some airport locations.

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AT&T and Verizon Communications are set on Jan. 5 to deploy C-Band spectrum 5G wireless service that they won in an $80 billion government auction. The aviation industry and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have raised concerns that 5G might interfere with sensitive aircraft electronics like radio altimeters, which could delay or divert flights.

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Patricia Vercelli, general counsel for industry group Airlines for America, said in a memo seen by Reuters that air carriers continue to urge the FCC and FAA "to work together on a practical solution that will enable the rollout of 5G technology while prioritising safety and avoiding any disruption to the aviation system."

The airlines' petition is aimed at preserving legal options in the event ongoing discussions do not result in an agreement and to prevent what airlines warn could be "massive disruptions" to U.S. aviation, the group said.

"We are committed to working in good faith to find a solution. But time is running out," the airline group said.

Earlier this month, the group warned interference from 5G networks could cause 4% of U.S. flights to be diverted, delayed or canceled.

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The FAA this month issued airworthiness directives warning 5G interference could result in flight diversions.

The agency has been preparing to issue notices further detailing impact of potential interference but has delayed release as intensive talks continue between the Biden administration, wireless carriers and the aviation sector.

Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines , Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, FedEx and other major carriers, says if the FAA 5G directive had been in effect in 2019, about 345,000 passenger flights and 5,400 cargo flights would have faced delays, diversions or cancellations.

In November, AT&T and Verizon delayed commercial launch of C-band wireless service by a month until Jan. 5 and adopted precautionary measures to limit interference.

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Aviation industry groups said that was insufficient. The aviation industry made a counterproposal that would limit cellular transmissions around airports and other critical areas.

Wireless industry group CTIA said 5G is safe and the spectrum is being used in about 40 other countries.

The FAA declined to comment. The FCC and CTIA did not immediately comment.

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Printable version | May 20, 2022 5:52:50 pm |