Verizon and AT&T agree to delay some 5G rollouts until mid-2023

A Southwest commercial plane flies over a cellphone tower as it approaches to land at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California, U.S., January 18, 2022. REUTERS/Mike Blake

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WASHINGTON, June 17 (Reuters) – The Federal Aviation Administration said on Friday that Verizon Communications (VZ.N) and AT&T (TN) had voluntarily agreed to delay certain 5G C-band uses until July 2023 as air carriers strive to modernize aircraft to ensure they will not face interference.

The two carriers agreed in January to delay until July 5 the activation of certain wireless towers and the deactivation of others near airports. Verizon said Friday that the new agreement will allow it to “lift voluntary limitations on rolling out our 5G network around airports in a phased approach over the next few months, which means even more consumers and businesses will benefit from the tremendous capabilities of 5G technology.”

AT&T said with the FAA that it has “developed a more personalized approach to controlling signal strength around runways, which allows us to activate more towers and increase signal strength.” AT&T added that it had voluntarily “chosen in good faith to implement these more tailored precautionary measures so that airlines have more time to upgrade equipment.”

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Fears that 5G service could interfere with aircraft altimeters, which provide data on a plane’s height above the ground and are crucial for landings in bad weather, led to disruptions at some US airports earlier. This year.

In recent months, the Federal Aviation Administration has urged airlines to complete upgrades to some aircraft radio altimeters.

Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen on Wednesday urged chief executives of major U.S. airlines to act quickly to address the risks of a 5G wireless rollout by installing filters on radio altimeters, in an attempt to to avoid potential disruptions at major airports from next month.

Airlines for America, an industry trade group representing American Airlines (AAL.O), Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), United Airlines (UAL.O) and others, said at a meeting of the FAA on Friday learned “the vast majority” of the members’ fleet of 4,800 total planes “should be upgraded by July 2023” and raised questions if this is feasible. “Given that the FAA hasn’t even approved any solutions and the manufacturers haven’t made these products for the bulk of this fleet, it’s not at all clear that carriers can meet what appears to be an arbitrary time limit.”

The FAA said Friday that “filters and replacement units for the mainline commercial fleet should be available on a schedule that would allow work to be substantially complete by July 2023. After that date, wireless companies expect to operate their networks in urban areas with minimal restrictions.”

On January 17, airline CEOs warned of an impending “catastrophic” airline crisis that could have brought almost all traffic to a standstill due to the rollout of 5G.

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Reporting by David Shepardson; edited by David Evans

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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