The companies will “further assess any impact on aviation safety technologies,” the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Aviation Administration said in a joint statement. Both companies confirmed they will delay their rollouts for about a month, to Jan. 5.
“Aviation safety and technology leadership are national priorities, and with today’s announcement these companies have demonstrated their commitment to both,” the agencies said in the statement.
The announcement comes after the FAA issued a bulletin to aircraft manufacturers and pilots Tuesday, warning them that action might be needed to address potential interference from the 5G expansion. Aviation groups have been warning regulators for months that the 5G rollout could interfere with radio altimeters, which allow pilots to measure how far a plane is from the ground.
The announcement highlights ongoing disputes over airwaves as regulators attempt to balance the needs of existing users with companies’ efforts to usher in the next generation of wireless technology. The companies are pausing the launch of commercial services on what’s known as C-Band, the frequencies critical to allowing wireless companies to offer faster speeds at a broader range.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the companies’ decision.
AT&T spokeswoman Margaret Boles said in a statement that the delay came at the request of the Transportation Department and that the company would continue to work with regulators in “good faith.”
“It is critical that these discussions be informed by the science and the data,” Boles said. “That is the only path to enabling experts and engineers to assess whether any legitimate coexistence issues exist.”
Verizon spokesman Richard Young said that the company would continue to push ahead with deployment of network equipment. Verizon and AT&T 5G launch
“We fully expect to deploy our 5G services over this spectrum early in the first quarter of 2022,” he said.
Canada recently imposed restrictions on locating new 5G cell towers near the runways of large airports. Australia, France and other nations have taken steps to limit the chances of aircraft interference.
The FAA bulletin said pilots should remind passengers to place any 5G device into airplane mode or switch them off during flight, and to notify the agency of any signs of interference.
The C-Band spectrum can become operational on Dec. 5. The FCC awarded wireless network providers access to the radio bands in a February auction.
The issue is that the FAA’s technical standards for radar altimeters were crafted years before the potential for mobile phone companies to use nearby frequencies arose. As a result, tens of thousands of the devices are in use without any protection against adjacent radio waves, the FAA said in the bulletin.
In comments to the FCC, aviation industry representatives have said that it would take years to develop new standards for radar altimeters and then replace or upgrade them.
Mobile carriers have permission to use the C-Band beginning Dec. 5. The FCC awarded wireless network providers access to the radio bands in a February auction. Verizon spent $45 billion on the airwaves in question, and AT&T devoted $23 billion in an FCC auction. Verizon and AT&T 5G launch
T-Mobile has a huge swath of licenses in the 2.5 gigahertz range, which is clear of the conflict.