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AT&T, Verizon Delay New 5G Service Amid Major Airlines' Fears Technology Could Cause Chaos In Air

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Change in plans. Both AT&T and Verizon have decided to hold off on installing 5G infrastructure near major airports amid concerns the new technology could cause chaos in the air.

This is a complicated mess that never should have come to this point. What we have is geopolitics, big business, dueling government agencies, and the average Jane and Joe potentially dealing with the fallout.

Communications giants AT&T and Verizon spent just shy of $70 billion last year to upgrade their 5G technology, which will allow super-fast downloading and streaming on premium cellphones.

It was set to roll out nationally in December, then in early January, and finally, on Wednesday. But there's one big problem each time, the airline industry doesn't trust the technology.

"The FAA lists 17 systems that could be affected and it says the pilot might not catch those errors in time for safe flight and landing," said Capt. Dannis Tajer of the Allied Pilots Association.

There's an instrument on planes called an altimeter, which helps pilots determine their distance from the ground. It is instrumental in inclement weather and it uses radio waves very close to the ones the new ultra-fast 5G technology uses.

The fear is one affecting the other and thus, calamity.

"The greatest impact is not the safety but to flights being canceled over potential safety concerns," said John Gagliano, an aviation attorney and a former U.S. Navy aviator.

If you're asking yourself what federal agencies oversee these two industries, that would be the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration. They've been going back and forth on this issue for the last two-plus years.

"My main takeaway is that the FAA should have addressed this a long time ago," Gagliano said. "This is not a secret. It wasn't a secret. Everyone should have seen it coming."

Reports suggest that the FAA, in fact, did raise red flags in 2020, but that they weren't heeded, leading to the current mess.

AT&T and Verizon have both independently decided to go ahead with Wednesday's national 5G rollout, except near airports and runways, and to continue to work with airlines and the FAA on their 5G deployment.

Both tech giants say their 5G bands will not interfere with planes' altimeters.

Philadelphia International Airport is reportedly among the locations where the new 5G will be delayed.

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