AT&T and Verizon decline call to delay 5G rollout over flight safety concerns

AT&T and Verizon on Sunday rejected requests by US regulators to delay the rollout of some 5G wireless services, expected this week, amid concerns about potential interference. intervene in aeronautical technology.

A joint letter from US telecom executives, John Stankey and Hans Vestberg, escalates a dispute between the companies and US regulators over concerns in the airline industry that 5G services can interfere with sensitive aircraft electronic equipment vital to the take-off and landing of flights.

Both sides have been reviewing 5G rollout plans, originally scheduled for December 5, but have agreed to a one-month delay while more secure assessments can be made.

On Sunday, Stankey and Vestberg released a proposal under which AT&T and Verizon would roll out 5G services this week but for six months would impose a so-called exclusion zone around airports, similarly as the specifications in France.

“The laws of physics are the same in the United States and France,” the executives wrote, adding that the companies together have spent more than $80 billion buying 5G spectrum from governments and consumers. another billion dollars for related implementations.

They dispute the move by government agencies to begin looking into the potential for interference with aeronautical altimeters – which measure the altitude of an object – in November 2021, about ten months after the session. 5G spectrum auction ends.

News of the joint letter was previously reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The companies’ proposal comes in response to Friday’s request by the US Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to ask telecoms to delay the January 5 rollout by two weeks. .

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA administrator Steve Dickson wrote on December 31. Such steps would compel the US aviation industry to take steps to protect the safety of the traveling public. . unacceptable disruption when planes are diverted to other cities or flights are cancelled”.

An FAA spokesman said Sunday that the agency would review the latest proposal from telecommunications groups and that “U.S. aviation safety standards will guide further actions.” ours”.

The latest proposals have sparked further criticism amid concerns that the two sides are far from reaching an agreement on how to proceed.

Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, union AFL-CIO, wrote in a tweet on Sunday that AT&T and Verizon’s joint letter “shows that the parties are not operating on the same set of facts. The systems, both air traffic and telecommunications, are not the same in the two countries”.

A Verizon spokesman said Sunday that, of the hundreds of flights scheduled daily between the US and France, “none of them had an FAA warning regarding them and no direct cancellations of US flights due to use of these spectrum bands In France. What’s the difference? There’s no one.”

Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr noted that the 5G services in question, deployed on so-called C-band spectrum, have launched in more than 40 countries without any airline interference.

The DoT and FAA’s request to further delay 5G “is part of a trend of dysfunction among several federal agencies that disagree with the process Congress has established to make the right decisions about spectrum policy,” he wrote in a letter to Minister Buttigieg on Saturday.

“Anything missing when wireless carriers begin their C-band operations on January 5 under the FCC’s regulatory regime would mark an unacceptable setback,” he added. received for US leadership in 5G,” he added.

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