Rollout of 5G service delayed near key US airports over fears of flight disruptions | Science & Tech News
The rollout of a new 5G service has been delayed near key US airports after the nation’s largest airlines said it would interfere with aircraft technology and cause massive flight disruptions.
AT&T and Verizon, the companies set to roll out the new C-Band 5G service on Wednesday, have made the decision after the Biden administration urged them to reach an agreement with airlines worried about the impact on flights.
US Airlines want the new 5G service, scheduled to come into effect on Wednesday, to be banned within two miles of airport runways.
AT&T and Verizon have agreed to delay turning on some wireless towers near key airports but have not said how long for.
Dubai’s Emirates airline and Japan’s All Nippon Airways suspended some flights to the US on Tuesday due to uncertainty over the 5G rollout.
ANA said on its website it was acting in response to a notice to airlines from Boeing over restrictions on the use of its 777 long-haul airliner amid industry concerns about radio interference. Boeing had no immediate comment.
It comes as Mr Biden said the agreements by AT&T and Verizon “will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90% of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled”.
He said his administration will keep working with both sides to reach a permanent solution around key airports.
The airline industry had issued a dire warning about the impact the 5G service would have on flights.
The chief executives of 10 passenger and cargo airlines including American, Delta, United and Southwest say that the problem will be more disruptive than earlier thought.
They say this is because dozens of large airports that were to have buffer zones to prevent 5G interference with aircraft will still be subject to flight restrictions announced last week by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The airlines added that those restrictions won’t be limited to times when visibility is poor.
It could also “potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas” and cause “chaos” for US flights, they said.
“Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the travelling and shipping public will essentially be grounded. This means that on a day like yesterday, more than 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers would be subjected to cancellations, diversions or delays,” the chief executives wrote.
The new high-speed wireless service uses a segment of the radio spectrum, C-Band, that is close to that used by altimeters, which are devices that measure the height of aircraft above the ground.
Altimeters are used to help pilots land when visibility is poor, and they link to other systems on planes.
AT&T and Verizon say their equipment will not interfere with aircraft electronics, and that the technology is being safely used in many other countries.