AT&T and Verizon Communications CEOs rejected a plea to postpone the planned Jan. 5 launch of new
5G wireless service due to aviation safety concerns, but offered to implement new measures in the
Late Friday, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson
requested a commercial deployment delay of no more than two weeks from AT&T CEO John Stankey
and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg.
In a joint statement sent on Sunday, the wireless providers stated that they would not deploy 5G
around airports for six months, but they rejected any larger restrictions on the use of C-Band
airwaves. They called the plan from the Transportation Department “an irresponsible abandonment of
the operating control essential to create world-class and globally competitive communications
The aviation industry and the Federal Aviation Administration have expressed worries about 5G’s
possible interference with sensitive aircraft electronics such as radio altimeters, which could cause
The exclusion zone proposed by AT&T and Verizon is now in use in France, with “slight adaptations”
reflecting “minor technological changes in how C-band is being deployed,” according to the providers.
The CEOs wrote, “Physical laws are the same in the United States and France.” “If American airlines
are allowed to fly every day in France, then they should be able to do so in the United States under
the same operating conditions.”
The FAA said in a statement on Sunday that it was investigating the incident “reviewing the telecom
companies’ recent letter on how to prevent 5G C-band transmission interference Our future steps will
be guided by US aviation safety requirements.”
According to FAA officials, France uses spectrum for 5G that is farther away from frequency used for
radio altimeters and uses lower 5G power levels than those allowed in the US.
Verizon stated that it will first utilise spectrum in the same range as France, and that it will take a few
years before it uses extra airwaves. The bigger exclusion zone around US airports is “to compensate
for the modest differential in power levels between the two countries,” according to Verizon.
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), which represents 50,000
flight attendants at 17 airlines, posted on Twitter on Sunday that pilots, airlines, manufacturers, and
others should be held accountable “Aside from SAFETY, there is no reason to postpone 5G. What do
they think about the fact that we’re bringing these concerns up around the holidays just for fun?”
The Air Line Pilots Association approved the postponement as well.
Exclusion zones requested by cellular providers are not as large as those demanded by the FAA,
according to government and industry experts.
On Friday, the FAA and Buttigieg proposed identifying priority airports “where a buffer zone would
allow aviation operations to continue safely while the FAA completes its evaluations of the possibility
The wireless carriers, which won the C-Band spectrum in an $80 billion government auction,
previously agreed to precautionary measures for six months to limit interference but say the upgrades
are essential to compete with other countries like China and to enable remote working.
Trade group Airlines for America, representing American Airlines, FedEx and other carriers, on
Thursday asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to halt deployment around many
airports, warning thousands of flights could be disrupted daily.
The airline group has said it may go to court Monday if the FCC does not act. The group urged the FCC
and the telecom industry to work with the FAA and the aviation industry to “enable the rollout of 5G
technology while prioritizing safety and avoiding any disruption to the aviation system.”
An FCC spokesperson said Sunday the agency is “optimistic that by working together we can both
advance the wireless economy and ensure aviation safety.”
Wireless industry group CTIA said 5G is safe and spectrum is being used in about 40 other countries.