AT&T, Verizon to delay 5G development due to aircraft safety issues

AT&T and Verizon have decided earlier on Wednesday to delay their 5G rollouts by at least a month, to help the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) address aircraft interference concerns.

In response to the Transportation Department requesting a delay, AT&T said it was pushing its launch to January 5th, after they had originally planned to use the newly available frequencies on December 5th.

The FAA issued on Tuesday a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) on the “Risk of Potential Adverse Effects on Radio Altimeters” of 5G deployment. It also added that “The SAIB is meant to alert “manufacturers, operators and pilots that action might be required to address potential interference with sensitive aircraft electronics caused by new 5G telecommunications technology.”

As such, the American multinational conglomerate told Forbes that it agreed to a U.S. Transportation Department request to delay the start of its 5G service one month later to January 5, while it works with the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission to “understand” the FAA’s “asserted co-existence concerns.”

However, Verizon did not confirm its delay formally yet, but it will postpone the move of its C-band 5G deployment by “about a month” in agreement with its rival.

The wireless networks prefer to keep the delay for a short-term timeframe, for the fact that the C-band slice they’re using (between 3.7GHz and 3.98GHz) represents an adequate spot for 5G service with more bandwidth than low- or mid-band 5G.

Hence, it could alleviate congestion in other frequency bands, too. The expansion of the fifth generation technology ensures a more substantial improvement over LTE that could increase subscriptions to the network, in addition to more upgrades to 5G phones.

The Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics report released in October 2020 found that 5G telecommunications systems in the 3.7-3.98 GHz band could “cause harmful interference to radar altimeters,” including those on commercial aircraft.

It also warned that there was a possibility that the interference could cause “catastrophic failures leading to multiple fatalities.” The report prompted aviation groups to request that the FCC halt giving out licenses for 5G in the C-Band in December.