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AT&T and Verizon agree to two-week delay in rollout of new 5G service due to concerns over airline safety

Wireless network CEOs resist 5G concerns
Wireless network CEOs push back against 5G airport concerns 07:28

AT&T and Verizon agreed Monday night to postpone their deployment of new 5G wireless service over concerns that it may interfere with flight safety equipment, the companies said.

AT&T confirmed the decision in a statement, noting that at the request of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, "we have voluntarily agreed to one additional two-week delay of our deployment of C-Band 5G services."

"We know aviation safety and 5G can coexist and we are confident further collaboration and technical assessment will allay any issues," the company said.

Verizon issued an almost identical statement.

The move came a day after AT&T and Verizon rebuffed a request to put off their rollout of the 5G technology, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, prompting airlines to threaten legal action.

According to representatives of the airline industry, a last-minute draft agreement was reached first with AT&T and then with Verizon.

Aviation regulators have raised concerns that the new technology might interfere with devices planes use to measure altitude.

The rollout, initially scheduled for December 5, had already been postponed once.

"Nobody has signed anything yet, but at this moment we will be holding in abeyance for this two weeks period as people are working frantically to come to an agreement," an airline industry official said.

For its part, the FAA said in a statement thanking the companies for agreeing to the delay. "We look forward to using the additional time and space to reduce flight disruptions associated with this 5G deployment," the agency said.

During the two-week break, changes made to facilities at airports in particular will need to be reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration to "deem those mitigation factors in that deployment in those airports to be safe for flying," the airline official said.

The companies have offered to use some mitigations comparable to measures used in Europe.  

The 3.7-3.8 GHz frequency bands were awarded to AT&T and Verizon in February after a bid for tens of billions of dollars.

Faced with concerns about potential interference problems with altitude measuring devices, the FAA had issued new directives limiting the use of the devices in certain situations.

U.S. airlines have protested against the potential costs involved and called on authorities to quickly find a solution.

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