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5G Debut Delayed Near Some Airports After Warning Of 'Massive Disruptions'

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Two major telecommunication companies put a pause on the launch of their new wireless service near key airports following concerns over interference with aircraft technology.

AT&T and Verizon made the decision Tuesday on the heels of the nation's largest airlines contacting federal officials with a warning about massive flight disruptions. The concern centered around the new 5G service using radio frequencies that could throw off readings from a specific piece of aircraft equipment called the altimeter. The device details how far pilots are flying the plane from the ground.

The companies will move forward with their 5G network rollout Wednesday, however, both carriers will delay turning on new cell towers around runways at certain airports. Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is not on the Federal Aviation Administration's list where interference could lead to significant disruptions.

President Joe Biden said the decision made by the two telecommunication companies "will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations and economic recovery."

Although the wireless companies implemented the voluntary pause, there is push back on the idea that their 5G equipment will interfere with aircraft electronics. AT&T and Verizon said the same technology is currently being used in 40 other countries.

During the pause, the FAA will continue giving the green light to planes to fly with reliable altimeters. Planes with outdated equipment will not be permitted to land under low-visibility conditions. Leading up to the Wednesday activation, the FAA said restrictions on about 45% of the commercial aircraft fleet had been lifted.

The uncertainty of the situation has some international airline companies canceling flights into the United States at certain airports. Emirates confirmed flights would be suspended into nine airports, including Boston and Newark. The airline said flights into nearby Washington Dulles would continue.

While the settlement between the two industries continues to be worked out, airline companies are firm in wanting the new service to be banned within two miles of airport runways.

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