Telecommunications operators AT&T and Verizon have been asked by US authorities to delay the launch of their 5G networks, which have already been rescheduled for up to two weeks, amid uncertainty over possible interruptions to key aviation equipment.
The launch of high-speed mobile broadband technology, which was initially scheduled for December 5, has already been delayed and was scheduled for January 5. But European aircraft makers Airbus and American Boeing have recently expressed “concern” about the interference in 5G radio altimeters, devices used to measure aircraft altitude.
U.S. Secretary of Transport Pete Boutique and Federal Aviation Administration President Steve Dixon made the request in a letter Friday to AT&T and Verizon, the two largest telecom operators in the country.
The official letter urging companies to “continue to suspend the introduction of commercial C-band service”, the frequency standard used for 5G, is “not more than two weeks longer than the currently scheduled January 5th.”
Companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
U.S. officials assured companies that the 5G service could “begin operating as planned in January, with some exceptions at priority airports”.
In that regard, they stated that their priority is to “ensure the safety of aircraft, while ensuring that 5G deployment and flight operations co-operate securely”.
Last February, Verizon and AT&T approved the use of frequency bands between 3.7 and 3.8 GHz on December 5, after obtaining licenses worth tens of thousands of dollars. But after concerns were raised about a possible disruption to Airbus and Boeing, the release date was pushed back to January.
The FAA asked for more information about the equipment and issued guidelines restricting the use of altimeters in certain situations, raising fears among airlines about possible costs.
Verizon and AT&T confirmed in a letter to federal officials in November their intention to begin implementing 5G in January, saying the FAA would take further precautionary measures beyond the requirements of U.S. law until July 2022, when it will complete its investigation.
In February, French authorities recommended that passengers on a flight turn off their cell phones with this technology due to a conflict between 5G networks and aircraft equipment.
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