Airline trade group calls for delay in 5G communications launch

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WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. airlines are asking the Federal Communications Commission to delay next week’s planned rollout of new 5G wireless service near dozens of major airports, saying it could interfere with the electronics pilots rely on .

Airlines for America, a trade group for major U.S. passenger and cargo carriers, said in an emergency filing that the FCC failed to give sufficient consideration to the damage 5G service could cause to the industry.

The group wants more time for the FCC and the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates airlines, to resolve aviation safety issues related to a type of 5G service called C-Band.

AT&T and Verizon Communications previously agreed to a one-month deadline for 5G, which provides faster speeds when mobile devices connect to their networks and allows users to connect many devices to the internet without slowing it down.

On Friday night, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson wrote to the CEOs of AT&T and Verizon proposing a delay in activating 5G C-band service near a number undetermined “priority airports” while the FAA studies the potential for interference with aircraft operations.

Buttigieg and Dickson said moving forward with next week’s activation “will cause widespread and unacceptable disruption as planes divert to other cities or flights are cancelled”, while a delay around of certain airports would have minimal impacts in the short term.

Verizon spokesman Richard Young said, “We received the letter shortly after 6 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, and will need time to review it.”

AT&T spokeswoman Kim Hart Jonson said the company is reviewing the letter.

The airline industry trade group has warned of significant damage if 5G rollout continues near major airports.

“Planes will not be able to rely on radio altimeters for many flight procedures and therefore will not be able to land at certain airports,” the group said in a filing Thursday. Radio altimeters measure the height of aircraft above the ground.

A4A, as the group calls itself, said its 11 member airlines are facing the need to re-route or cancel “thousands” of flights, resulting in losses exceeding $1 billion.

The group said the new service will affect the three main airports in the New York area – LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark, New Jersey – as well as O’Hare in Chicago, Logan in Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles International and San Francisco.

The trade group’s general counsel has threatened to go to court next week if the FAA does not respond to the group’s request for a delay.

The FAA said in early December it would block pilots from using automated landing systems at some airports after the rollout of 5G or fifth-generation wireless service because it could interfere with radio altimeters. The FAA declined to comment on the airline group’s case.

CTIA, a trade group representing the wireless communications industry, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of the House Transportation Committee, sided with the airlines, saying Friday that the aviation and telecommunications industries should work together “to find a safe way to deploy the 5G technology”. … We cannot afford to experiment with aviation security.

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