Federal aviation officials have agreed not to further delay Verizon and AT&T’s new 5G cellular service, clearing the way for companies to start their service while avoiding major clashes with regulators who said it could jeopardize flights.
In addition to the two-week delay in starting their service, carriers will place measures designed to address government security concerns about the technology, especially temporarily around certain airports.
The agency expressed concern that the new 5G service uses signals that collide with equipment used to land in bad weather. Officials said they could restrict the use of equipment known as radio altimeters, which could force airlines to ground or re-route flights under certain conditions.
The new 5G service uses a portion of the airwaves, called the C-Band, to operate; Aircraft use the corresponding set of radio waves for their radio altimeters. The aviation industry has said the two signals will collide with potentially dangerous consequences.
In a letter to the wireless companies on Monday night, federal officials said that with the technology “missing” unforeseen security issues, they would “not demand or demand any further delays” in launching the new technology.
“We are confident that your voluntary action will support the deployment of 5G C-Band and the safe coexistence of aviation activities, which will help maintain America’s economic strength and leadership role across the globe,” said Petit Batigig, secretary of transportation and federal aviation administration. , Stephen Dixon, in a letter to the chief executives of the two companies.
The agreement prevents a collision this week between AT&T and Verizon, which initially planned to start service on Wednesday, and federal regulators who have said they could ban flights if their concerns are not met. The country’s airlines said the ban could disrupt thousands of passenger flights shortly after holiday travel was delayed and canceled due to staff shortages and weather.
“Last night’s agreement is an important step in the right direction, and we are grateful for the cooperation and goodwill of all parties,” President Biden said in a statement on Tuesday. “This agreement ensures that there will be no disruptions in aviation operations over the next two weeks and will put us on track to significantly reduce disruptions to aviation operations when AT&T and Verizon 5G launch on January 19th.”
Under the agreement, wireless carriers will abide by their pledge to operate 5G stations at less power than they would otherwise plan. They will further reduce power around “more than 50 priority airports” as per the agreement.
The FAA said it would evaluate whether some radio altimeters could be used safely, even with 5G service, possibly exempting those devices from future restrictions and limiting the number of aircraft that would face delays or cancellations.
Airlines for America, a lobbying group, threatened to go to court to block the new 5G service. In a statement, the organization’s chief executive Nicholas E. Calio said he would continue to work with all stakeholders to “ensure the new 5G service safely coexists with aviation.”